Chapter 196503845

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Chapter NumberI
Chapter TitleEARLY DAYS.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article196503845
Full Date1894-12-01
Page Number31
Corrections11
Word Count2532
IllustratedN
Last Corrected2018-05-06
Newspaper TitleLeader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 - 1918)
Trove TitleOld Time Reminiscences. A True Record of Early Adventures
article text

TALES AND SKETCHES.

OLD TIME REMINISCENCES. A True Record of Early Adventures.

By James Kirby, a Colonist of 1840.

Chapter I.— Early Days.

My father, who was a gentleman farmer in Northamptonshire, England, took passage for himself, my mother, brothers, sister and myself in the ship China, commanded by Captain Robertson, and we sailed for Melbourne, Port Phillip, in the year 1839, and were nearly six months on the voyage; the vessel calling at the Cape of Good Hope and remaining there nearly a fortnight. My father took us all on shore there and we stopped in Cape Town until the

China was ready to resume her voyage to Port Phillip. While we were at the Cape an English man of war had captured a slaver and brought her into Table Bay. The slaves were all brought on shore, and after they had been fed and washed my father took us to see them; I remember they were all young men, standing erect and looking very glossy after their good washing. I think the authorities sent them back from whence they came, and that the slaver was burned. I was too young to take much interest, therefore do not know what was done to or with the captain and crew of the slaver. It may appear strange now that we should take six months to sail from England to Melbourne, but the "road " across seas, was not so well known in those days as now. Six weeks is the average time for the voyage nowadays (1894). On nearing Australia, our captain (who by the way was most careful) became over anxious, and was on the lookout for days and nights before we entered the Heads, until at last his eyes became bloodshot, and it was feared he would overtax bis strength, so much so that my father and some of the other passengers insisted on his taking rest. There were no pilots in those days; and as our captain had never been here before, and the charts were not to be too much relied upon it is not surprising that the captain should feel the great responsibility he had upon him a very great load to bear. I remember he cast anchor outside the Heads for a night or two, and in the daytime would feel his way by having a hand constantly "heaving the lead." However, through his great care and good seamanship, he brought us safely through the Heads and anchored off Williamstown in March, 1840. The passengers were taken by boat from the ship to what was then called Liardet's beach, and when nearing the shore and the boats grounded, the sailors used to jump out of the boats and carry the passengers ashore on their backs. This is how we all arrived (including my mother) on the land of Australia. From LIardet's beach we, in common with all the rest, had to walk two miles, when we came to the punt aoross the Yarra, which I think was somewhere about where Princes Bridge now stands. From the punt we had not far to walk to Melbourne. My father tried to rent a house or get lodgings for us, but he could not: Fortunately he heard of half a house out at Newtown. Newtown was then about a miie from Melbourne through the bush. There was no road to it, but there was a footpath made by people walking to and from Melbourne. I remember my mother was very much afraid at being so far in the bush. Newtown was somewhere about where

Collingwood is now The house my father got had been made in panels in England, and brought out in packages like so many doors, all of which were numbered, and thus were quickly and easily erected.The house contained but four rooms end on to each other, and only one fireplace. A Mr Montgomery; a lawyer, had secured the two rooms at the end where the fireplace was, and we had the other two without a fireplace; rent 2 pounds per week; bread, 2 shillings and sixpence for a small loaf; prices which made it costly work to keep a lot of boys. My father engaged two men, "Charley" and "Harry". He then bought two horses, four working bullocks and a bullock dray. Charley was to accompany my father and show him where he could take up some country suitable for a sheep or cattle station. Accordingly they set out riding the two horses and rode for nearly a week over the plains somewhere Geelong way. On my father's return he said he did not quite approve of the country he had ridden over, but thought it best in all circumstances to take it up. What is meant by this phrase is that a person who was desirous of getting an area of Government land could do so by putting in an application to Captain Fyans, the then Commissioner of Crown Lands, stating in the application where the land was situated and what number of square miles was required ; on receipt of the application the chances were that the applicant would have a "squatting licence " granted to him for which he would have to pay 10 pounds a year; these squatting licences gave permission to occupy for one year only, but might be renewed. Having received the necessary permission to occupy the land; the next move was to yoke the bullocks to the dray, the man Harry driving them into Melbourne, where my father loaded it with flour, sugar, tea, slop goods, tools etc, sufficent to last 12 months he supposed. The same evening Harry came back to Newtown with the

loaded dray. This was on a Saturday and we were to start on the journey on Monday morning. Unfortunately Charley asked my father for a pound or two, as he wanted to go back again to Melbourne to purchase some things for himself. He did not return that night, nor did he put in an appearance during Sunday. My father became quite anxious and began to think he ought not to put too much confidence in him. On Monday Charley returned, but he was half stupid with drink. In those times a weakness of this sort would be overlooked or winked at by those who knew the habits and ways of the people here, but my father just having arrived fresh from the old country thought it most disgraceful conduct, and said he would not think of of trusting his family and goods to a man who got intoxicated. Consequently, Charley was ordered off the place and we never saw him again. The next evening my father was invited by a Mr. John Hunter Patterson, who was a near neighbour of ours, to dine and spend the evening with him. Mr Patterson had bought by auction some Government land just before we arrived, and he (Patterson) sold that evening to my father 1640 acres of it, and in the course of a couple of days the bullock dray and load started for the land just purchased, instead of that originally intended to be taken up in the direction of Geelong. The land purchased was about 25 miles from Melbourne, near the head of Merri Creek, which in those days was considered a long way "in the bush." There were a great number of aborlgines about, but they were quiet and harmless. We went to work at the new place and built a comfortable slab hut, roofed with bark, and then split some posts and rails and fenced some paddocks. My father then bought 210 head of cattle out of a mob that was passing and which belonged to Mr. W. Rutledge, who had brought them from the "Sydney side" as it was then called. Horses were dear in those days. My fathor paid £55 and £60 respectively for the two he bought, and they were only ordinary stock horses, such as could be bought at the present time for as many shillings. Working bullocks were about £40 a pair. Flour was £60 a ton, and everything else was proportionately high in price. We named our new home Fausely after Fausely Park in Northamptonshire. Soon after our arrival in the colony my eldest sister married a Mr. Alex. McKinley, who was a merchant in Melbourne, and I left "Fausely" to live with them for a time, and during my sojourn with them a great scare was created in Melbourne by a report that bushrangers had started, and were robbing and plundering every place they came to. The gang of bushrangers spoken of were four in number, named respectively, John Williams, Charles Ellis, Dan Jepps. and Martin Fogarty. For some time these fellows had been seen prowling about Melbourne, frequenting a low boarding house in Little Flinders-street. This was about the year 1842. Those bushrangers provided themselves with good horses and firearms, and started up the Yarra River, " sticking up " every one they met and robbing them, bailing up every hut or homestead they came to. News was soon brought to Melbourne of their black deeds, and as quiokly as possible Mr. Powlett (Commissioner of Crown Lands) collected a party together and started in pursuit of the robbers. They followed the "rangers" up the Yarra, but eventually lost their track, for the pursued had crossed the Yarra and were now going up the Plenty River. After losing the tracks of the " rangers," their pursuers deemed it best to return to Melbourne, when one of the party interviewed Mr Latrobe (the Acting Governor), at the Club Hotel. Mr. Latrobe at once set about getting suitable volunteers tn follow the bushrangers. There happened to be some squatters staying at the club, who at once responded to Mr. Latrobe's request, and, arming themselves, mounted their horses with as little delay as possible. These gentlemen's names were Messrs. Fowler, Oliver Gourlay, P. Snodgrass, James Thompson and Chamberlaine. The few police stationed in Melbourne were already out in search of the bushrangers, and had these " volunteers " not started out at once and shown such pluck there would have been no end to the crimes the "rangers" would have committed. The volunteers went a short distance up the Yarra and than made for the Plenty River, riding In the dark, for it was just about 5 o'olook when they started from Melbourne. At every hut, dwelling or fire the pursuers came to during the night they made inquiries as to the bushrangers, and were informed at nearly every place that they had been"stuck up" during the afternoon by the "rangers". Soon after sunrise the following morning the volunteers came in sight of Mr. Hunter's station and noticed some horses saddled and tied near the house, which was built as nearly all were in those days of split slabs and roofed with bark and were called " huts." After a short consultation the pursuers came to tho conclusion that the pursued were in the " hut " from the fact of the horses being tied near it, and they therefore decided to gallop up to the place. It was about breakfast time when the bush- rangers arrived at Mr. Campbell Hunter's stations and Mr. Hunter with a couple of lady friends, had just sat down to a breakfast of oold fowl, etc when they heard the galloping of horses. On looking out they saw the " rangers " approaching, but did not comprehend the meaning of it, as they had not heard that the Rangers were "out." The meaning of their appearance was, however, soon made known to them for the gang dismounted, and, pistol in hand,commanded Mr. Hunter and party to "bail

up" ; then ordering the inmates (Iadies included) into another room, they locked them in, and the gang sat down to breakfast instead. While thus employed, they in their turn were startled by the sound of horses galloplng, and on looking out saw what was the matter, so they fastened the doors and began to fire at the volunteers ; and now the battle began in earnest. During the firing and confusion the ladies, Mr. Hunter and the others who were locked in the room managed to escape from it, but my memory fails me as to how they accomplished it, There was very little shelter for the volunteers, only a few trees, one of which they found very useful, for it was well within shot of the house. The first idea of the volunteers was to gallop up to the hut, dismount, and rush upon the scoun drels before they could well comprehend what was about to take place ; but in this they were disappointed, for the gang were too much on the alert and blazed away at once. The bush rangers of course had a great advantage by being able to fire out of the hut, while the volunteers had no way of firing Into it, except through the windows. Ths volunteers withdrew out of gun shot and talked over what was best to be done, for up to now they could only run up to the big tree and flre at the windows from behind it; they therefore decided to make a rush for the back door and try to burst it open. In this they failed, for the door would not give way, and they had to beat a retreat. The next thing they declded upon was to make another rush for the back door in order to wrench out one or two slabs from the side of it. During all this time they were under fire from those within the hut. They made a rush and got out a slab, thus making an opening through whioh they entered, and then occurred such a hand to hand fight as the colony has never seen before or since. While assisting to remove the slabs Mr. Oliver Gourlay received a shot whioh struck his

powder flask which he had slung round his neck (the flask hanging just over his heart). The ball- although it glanced off— struck with such force that it knocked Mr. Gourlay down, and he thought his last hour had come. Raising himself on his elbows, he said to his comrades, "Tell my friends I died game." Mr. Fowler got a ball which struck him on the nose, and I think others were wounded ; but this occurred so long ago that I forget. After a most desperate fight in the hut the bushrangers were captured, one of them, Williams, being shot dead, although the others were unhurt. These were safely bound and conveyed to Melbourne, where they were tried found guilty and hanged. Mr. Hunter's place was about 5 miles from Fausely, and we learned afterwards that it was the intention of the bushrangers, had they not been captured, to "stick up" the latter place, and then make for the Sydney-road. Although only a boy at the time I took a great interest in the matter, and used to wish most fervently that the bush rangers would be captured before they killed many people. I saw both the parties who went in pursuit of them leave Melbourne, and I remember they started off at a good hard gallop. To Be Continued.)