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Past and Present, and Men of the Times.

Chapter II

page 47

Chapter II.

We cross the Straits to Nelson—Nelson in 1841—We go to Launceston for Flour—A quick trip back to Wellington—A trip up to Taranaki—A stirring scene in old Taranaki—We leave for Sydney—My old friend Smith again—I take a cargo of horses to Calcutta—A successful trip—My first impression of India—Our return to Sydney—A sad occurrence—My fast habits—Mr. Nash "rooks" me of large sums—To Adelaide with cattle—The rise of South Australia—A tribute to Sir George Grey—The Discovery of Copper—A Marvellous Story—Kapunda and Burra-Burra.

We got the little vessel under way and left for Nelson, on the South Island. The schooner was very light, and should have had from ten to fifteen tons of ballast in her, as we only had a small quantity of flour on board, We made bad weather in the Straits, but we reached Nelson in three days, and found the settlers in a very bad state for want of provisions. Some of them had potatoes planted. They took the seed from the ground, peeled the potatoes, and then put the peelings from the potatoes into the ground for seed. Men made trousers out of flour bags, and indeed the people were very short of supplies of all kinds. We discharged our flour, sold what sugar we had, and we then wished the people of Nelson good-bye, and started for another cargo of flour. We had a good run to Launceston, and soon loaded up again. Flour was very cheap in Launceston. but was bringing a big price in New Zealand. We soon got our flour loaded, and made Wellington in seven days, the people of the town being greatly surprised to see the "Water Lily" back to Wellington in so short a time. Mr. Rhodes brought half our cargo, and the people of Wellington advised me to run the page 48schooner to Taranaki, telling me that I would get a good price for the remainder of the cargo. This was in 1842, in Wakefield's time.

The people of New Plymouth were nearly staving for bread, so instead of going to Nelson we ran the schooner up to New Plymouth. I was sorry for having done so. We had to land our goods through heavy surf. We sold our cargo, and I got a better price for it than we obtained in Wellington, but New Plymouth was a very bad place for any vessel to lay. The two days I was there I witnessed a scene amongst the natives. A gentleman of the name of Carrington had to run to save his life. He was laying out the town, when a chief tried to stop him, and flourished a tomahawk over his head. He had to run and take shelter in a whare belonging to Dicky Barratt, an old whaler. The natives mustered very strong, and I thought I was going to see a great row. The few people who were then in the town were very much frightened, as well they might be, for there were about 800 natives in the place, dancing war dances, and threatening the Europeans. I settled up my business as quickly as I could, got on board the schooner, and left that night. I will now leave New Zealand for a time, as I shall have a great deal more to say about this Colony later on. We got under way, and the captain shaped his course for Sydney. Three days out from New Plymouth the "Water Lily" sprang a leak, and we had to keep the pumps going all the way to Sydney. On our arrival the schooner was put on the patent slip, and during the time she was being repaired the captain sold her, and we settled up and parted.

At the end of 1842 my old friend, Mr. Smith, was shipping horses to the Indian market to supply the East India Company's troops and one day I met him as I was walking up George Street. He was surprised to see me. I said that I had been a long time away. He asked if I had made any money. I gave him all the news about my overland trip with the sheep, and my two trips to New Zealand in the schooner with flour. Mr. Smith then said he wanted me to go and take charge of some horses that he was about to ship to Calcutta. I was very much pleased, and jumped at his offer. There was a large vessel called the "Lord Lyne-doek" lying in port, which had been conveying prisoners to Sydney. She had fine accommodation for stock, so Mr. Smith chartered her for Calcutta. He placed on board 400 horses, and put me in charge of the animals. I got my men on board and page 49away we went on our voyage, with a fair wind. We had splendid weather during the trip, and arrived safely at our destination. Out of the entire lot of horses shipped we only lost four. I stopped on shore for six weeks, the time occupied in loading up the ship with cargo for her return trip, and enjoyed myself immensely. Everything was so new and strange. I had plenty of money and very little need of it. A suit of light clothes could be purchased for one rupee (2s.), and a planquin, with two bearers, could be hired for a whole day for about 6d. It was luxurious to travel about on the shoulders of two strapping darkies all the hot summer's day. I frequently went to a place called Dum Dum, about fifteen miles from Calcutta. Here there was a fine collection of wild animals to be seen, and also a large pond of water, filled with tame fish, which would come to the edge and eat rice out of the visitor's hand. Altogether my first impressions of India were very pleasurable, notwithstanding the terifric heat which prevailed. The "Lord Lynedock "got a full cargo of sugar, grain, and rice for the Sydney market, and was pretty deep in the water. The sails were bent, passengers taken on board, and a tug towed us down the river Hoogley. We laid two days at the mouth of the river, and having a fair wind, "up sticks "and away for Australia at once.

I must say that I felt something like regret at leaving so jolly a place. On my next visit my feelings were altogether different, but of this more anon. The passengers soon shook down into their respective places, and the voyage back was a pleasant and speedy one. We arrived at Sydney Heads without any mishap or occurrence of note. The wind was blowing hard from the eastward as we passed through the Heads. 'It was a fair wind up the harbour. The night had set in, and the light on the "Sow and Pigs," a small island in mid-channel, had gone out. Shortly after leaving it, a small coasting schooner, which was tacking across the harbour, came into collision with us. Our vessel passed clean over her, and twelve unfortunate people, who were in her, were drowned before we could render any assistance. I went on shore next day and saw my employer, who was highly pleased with the success of the trip, and told me he would shortly send me to India again on a similar errand. He had then two ships chartered to convey horses to Calcutta, and had entered into partnership with Mr. Boyd, who wished me to go another trip as trading-master to the Straits of Timor, but after page 50the fate of the "Swallow" and her crew, I imagined it would be tempting Providence, and declined his offer.

At this time I have to confess that I was rather a fast young man. I had plenty of money, and spent it freely. When I ran short I only had to apply to Messrs. Smith, Boyd, or Terry, to get as much as I required, and this system unfortunately imbued me with a spendthrift habit, which stuck to me more or less for some time. I met Mr. Boyd one morning, and he asked me if I would take a trip to Adelaide, as he was about to send some cattle there, and having been six weeks ashore, I embraced the opportunity of a change, and told him I was quite willing. I asked him for some money, and be said with astonishment, "Why! you had £150 a fortnight ago! What have you done with it? "I turned sulky, and refused to inform him. He had seen me in the company of the celebrated Bill Nash, spoken of before as the man who had the hardihood and impudence to impede the Queen's carriage in Hyde Park, while home on a ticket-of-leave, and guessed rightly that Nash, to use a colonial expression had "had me." Nash, although a very wealthy man, was a confirmed gambler, and was clever enough, even among such a rough community, to make the "profession" a paying one. Gambling had great charms for a young careless fellow like myself, and Mr. Nash, I am ashamed to say, frequently possessed himself of my stock of cash by his cleverness.

Mr. Boyd at this time had a large mob of cattle sent down from his station. The cattle were shipped for Adelaide. I met Mr. Boyd, and he told me the ship would leave in two days, and told me to get ready, and doing so, I went on board the vessel. We left Sydney Heads on August 14, 1843; we had a splendid run to Adelaide, and landed the cattle all right. I met many old friends that I had left behind when I joined Captain Sharp in the schooner "Water Lily." The cattle were all sold at a good profit, and I stayed in Adelaide for some time. I met many of my old mates with whom I had travelled overland from Sydney with the sheep, and they tried hard to get me to settle down and take up a run. I met the Governor, Captain George Grey, and he also wanted me to settle on a farm in Adelaide in 1843, which had began to attract a good deal of notice, and a number of people left Sydney to settle there. The colonists of South Australia had, in 1841, received a sharp but salutary lesson, and they had profited by it. They had discovered that the land was page 51their only source of wealth, and many who had sufficient means to purchase farms or stations, went out into the country determined to endure a year or two of hardships in hope of prosperity to come. Nor had they very long to wait. In 1844 they were able to export corn to the extent of £40,000, and in that year the colony possessed 355,000 sheep, and 22,000 cattle.

The new Governor, Captain George Grey, took every care to assist the colonists in returning to more prudent courses Many changes were needed. In 1840, while the colony had a revenue of only £30,000, it had spent at the rate of £171,000 per annum. Such imprudence could lead to nothing but ruin, and the first task of the Governor was to reduce all expenses as far as possible. In the next year the expenses were cut down to £90,000, in the next to £68,000, and in 1843 to £34,000. Instead of employing the poorer labourers on costly and unnecessary public works he persuaded them to take employment up country with the farmers and squatters, who were rapidly opening up the interior parts of the colony. He settled many on small farms or stations of their own, but in this he was greatly impeded by the high price of land, for, Wakefield's friends in England were not yet convinced that their favourite scheme was defective. They attributed every mishap to the incompetence of Governors Hindmarsh and Gawler. "To lower the price," said they, "will be to ruin the colony," and lest such a thing should happen, they raised the price of all lands, whether good or bad, to one pound per acre, but many of those who had bought land in the early days of the settlement had been so anxious to part with it during the crisis that they had sold it for much less than it cost them, and thus a great number of the poorer people became possessed of land at very moderate prices.

In 1839 there were but 440 acres under cultivation. Three years afterwards, there were 23,000 acres bearing wheat, and 5000 acres of other crops. So rich and fertile was the soil that in 1845 the colonists not only raised enough corn to supply their own wants, but were able to export about 200,000 bushels at cheap rates to the neighbouring colonies, and even then were left with 150,000 bushels, which they could neither sell nor use. So rapid a development of resources, and so sudden an accession of prosperity have probably never occurred in the history of any other country.

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Such was the success attendant upon careful industry, exercised with prudence, and under favourable circumstances, but the colony was to owe yet more to good fortune. During the year 1841 a carrier while driving his bullocks over the Mount Lofty range had been obliged, by the steepness of the road, to fasten a log at the back of his waggon, in order to steady the load and prevent its descending quickly. As the log dragged roughly behind on the road it tore great furrows in the soil, and in one of these the carrier noticed a stone which glanced and glittered like a metal. On looking around more closely he saw there were large quantities of the same substance lying near the surface of the earth in all directions. Having taken some specimens with him, he made enquiries in Adelaide, and learned that the substance he had discovered was, galena, a mineral in which sulphur is combined with lead and small quantities of silver. The land on which this valuable ore had been found was soon purchased, and mines opened up, and at first there was large profit obtained from the enterprise, and though, in many years, the deposit became exhausted, yet the mines served to call the attention of the colonists to the possibility of discovering more permanent and lucrative sources of mineral wealth.

At the Kapunda station, about forty miles north-west of Adelaide, there lived a squatter named Captain Bagot. One day, during the year 1842, he sent his overseer, Mr. Dutton, to search for a number of sheep which had strayed into the bush. After spending some time in fruitless efforts, Mr. Dutton ascended a small hill in order to have a more extensive view of the country, but still he saw nothing of the lost sheep On turning to descend, his attention was attracted by a bright green rock jutting from the earth. It seemed to him peculiar, so he broke a small piece off and carried it down to Captain Bagot's house, where he and the captain examined it, and came to the conclusion that it consisted of the mineral called malachite, containing copper in combination with water and carbonic dioxide. They let no one know of the discovery, but proceeded to apply for the land in the usual manner, without breathing a word as to their purpose. The section of eighty acres was advertised for a month, and then put up to auction, but as no one was anxious for this barren piece of ground they had no competitors, and the land fell to them for the price of £80. As soon as they became possessed of it they threw off all mystery and commenced opera-page 53tions. During the first year the mines yielded £4000; during the next, £10,000; and for several years they continued to enrich the two proprietors until each had realised a handsome fortune, when the land was bought by an English company.

The discovery of copper at Kapunda caused much excitement in the colony. Everyone who possessed land examined it carefully for the trace of any minerals it might contain, and soon it was rumoured that, at a place about one hundred miles north of Adelaide, a shepherd had found exceedingly rich specimens of copper ore. The land on which they were discovered had not yet been sold by the Government, and in great haste a company was formed to purchase it. The company consisted of merchants, professional men, and officials of Adelaide; but a rival company was immediately started, consisting of shopkeepers and tradesmen, together with the farmers of the country districts. The former company always maintained a haughty air, and soon came to be known throughout the colony as the "nobs," while they, in their turn, fixed on their rivals the nickname of the "snobs." For a week or two the jealousies of the companies ran high, but they were soon forced so make a temporary union, for according to the land laws of the colony, if anyone wished to buy a piece of land he had to apply for it and have it advertised for a month. It was then put up at auction, and he who offered the highest price became the purchaser. A month, however, is a long time to wait, and as it was rumoured that a number of speculators were on their way from Sydney to offer large sums for the land as soon as it should be put up at auction, it was necessary to take immediate action. There was another regulation in the land laws, according to which, if a person applied for 20,000 acres, and paid £20,000 in cash, he became at once the proprietor of the land. The "nobs" determined to avail themselves of this arrangement, but when they put their money together they found they had not enough to pay so large a sum. They, therefore, asked the "snobs" to join them on the understanding that after the land had been purchased the two companies would make a fair division. By uniting their funds they raised the required amount, and proceeded with great exultation to lodge the money. But part of it was in the form of bills on the Adelaide banks, and as the Governor refused to accept anything but cash, the companies were almost in despair, until a few active members hunted up their friends in Adelaide, page 54and succeeding in borrowing the number of sovereigns required to make up the deficiency. The money was duly paid into the Treasury, the two companies become the possessors of the much-coveted land, and the Sydney speculators arrived a few clays too late.

Now came the division of the 20,000 acres. A line was drawn across the middle; a coin was tossed up to decide which of the two parties should have the first choice, and fortune favoured the "snobs," who selected the northern half, called by the natives Burra-Burra. To the southern part the "nobs" gave the name of "Princess Royal" The companies soon became operations, but though the districts appeared on the surface to be of almost equal richness, yet, on being laid open, the Princess Royal ground was soon found to be in reality only poor, while the Burra-Burra mines provided fortunes for each of the fortunate "snobs." During the three years after their discovery these mines yielded copper to the value of £700,000. Miners were brought from England, and a town of about 5,000 inhabitants rapidly sprang into existence. The houses of the Cornish miners were of a peculiar kind. A creek runs through the district with high and precipitous banks, and into the face of these cliffs the miners cut away large chambers to serve as dwellings. Holes were bored through the rock and emerging from the surface of the ground above, formed the chimneys, which were capped by small beer-barrels instead of chimney-pots. The fronts of the houses were weatherboard, in which doors were left; and for two miles along each side these primitive dwellings looked out upon the almost dry bed of the creek, which formed the main street of the village. Here the miners dwelt for years, until the waters rose one night into a foaming flood, which destroyed the houses and swept away several of their inhabitants. In 1845, Burra-Burra was a lonely moor; in 1850 it was bustling with men, noisy with the sound of engines, and pumps and forges. Acres of land were, covered with the company's wharehouses and offices, and the handsome residences of its officers. Behind these there rose great mounds of blue, green, and dark-red ores of copper, worth enormous sums of money, Along the roads, eight hundred teams, each consisting of eight bullocks, passed constantly to and fro, whilst scores of ships were employed in conveying the ore to England. From this great activity the whole community could not but derive the utmost benefit, and for a time South Australia had every prospect of taking the foremost place among the colonies.