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Sydney to Croydon (Northern Queensland) An Interesting Account of a Journey to the Gulf Country with a Member of Parliament

Sydney to Croydon (Northern Queensland)
An Interesting Account of a Journey to the Gulf Country
with a Member of Parliament
Author: Saltbush
Title: Sydney to Croydon (Northern Queensland) An Interesting Account of a Journey to the Gulf Country with a Member of Parliament
Release Date: 2018-07-03
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
Count views: 51
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An Interesting Account of a Journey to the
Gulf Country with a Member of Parliament.







By “Saltbush.”


HAVING received letters and telegrams from an old mate of mine who hasbeen on the Croydon goldfield for some considerable time—in all ofwhich communications he strongly advised me to pay a visit to the fieldin order that I might judge for myself as to its richness and permanencyand its suitability for investment—it being in his opinion the grandestgoldfield ever discovered in Northern Queensland. I finally decided tomake the trip, and in company with a friend of mine, who with myself,had on a former occasion visited Normanton and the Gulf-country beforeCroydon was ever thought of, we started from Sydney on Monday, the 25thJuly, and as the incidents of our journey may prove interesting to manyothers who may visit the locality in the near future, I have ventured tojot down a few experiences and impressions picked up during the journey.We waited upon Messrs. Burns Philp and Co. in Sydney and made allarrangements as to return passage from Brisbane to Normanton, havingdecided to proceed overland from the capital of New South Wales to thecapital of Queensland, my friend, who had never travelled that route,being particularly anxious to have a good look at the New England andDarling Downs country, more especially as I was pretty well acquaintedwith it, and could furnish him with some information concerning it thatmight be eventually both useful and profitable. Having packed ourtravelling trunks and various necessaries for the voyage, and confiningourselves to such articles as were absolutely indispensable, in order tomake our “impedimenta” as light as possible—knowing from experiencethat too much luggage is a terrible handicap on a long journey—thefirst step was to secure berths on the Hunter River Steamship Company’sfine boat, “the Namoi,” which left the wharf at half-past eleven, forNewcastle. With the assistance of “Alick,” the well-known and genialbedroom steward, we secured a very comfortable cabin to ourselves on theupper deck, and a more obliging and attentive steward than the sameAlick I never wish to drop across in my travels, as nothing seemed anytrouble to him and he relieved us of all anxiety concerning our luggageby looking carefully after it whilst in transit on the steamer, andthen, on our arrival at the coaly city, by conveying it on board theNorthern train advertised to leave at a quarter-past seven, a.m., on themorning of the 26th.{4}

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

Returning to the Station we found the train on the point of starting, sosecuring our seats and a supply of literature, in which the “Town andCountry,” “Sydney Mail,” “Evening News,” “Echo,” and “Bulletin” figuredprominently, we made ourselves as comfortable as circumstances wouldpermit, having for fellow passengers, Mr. and Mrs. Blunt—the former thecontractor for one of the sections of the Homebush and Waratah railwayextension—who were on their way to Muswellbrook to spend a few weeks athome and enjoy a well-earned rest.

Leaving Newcastle we steamed along past Honeysuckle Point, then onwardsthrough Hamilton, Waratah, Sandgate and Hexham, where we commence totraverse the famous swamps, rendered memorable as the breeding-groundsof the well-known and duly appreciated “Hexham Greys,” those notedmosquitoes, which beyond all question, are able to climb the trees andbark, whilst it is also an equally well-known fact that many of themweigh a pound, but as this is not the real mosquito season we escape anyvery pressing attentions on their part, and running along through thisflat swampy country with the Hunter River shining brightly in themorning sun on our right, we gradually strike into better country, andby the time East Maitland is reached the land looks about as good and asfertile as they make it in this part of the world.

Passing the gaol on our right, where no doubt many an unfortunate isbitterly regretting the hour in which he strayed from the paths ofrectitude, we shortly afterwards pull up at East Maitland, where theguard and porters inform us that passengers for Morpeth change here, andafter a few minutes delay we again proceed on our journey, calling atHigh Street (West Maitland) where the inevitable newsboy supplies uswith the “Maitland Mercury,” one of the best country papers in New SouthWales—conveying, as it does, an enormous amount of information on everyconceivable subject to its numerous readers—and a journal of which theproprietary may feel justly proud. On, past Farley, formerly known asthe Wollombi Road, where most of the fat cattle are unloaded for theMaitland market, past Lochinvar, Allandale,{5} Greta, with its notedcolliery, Branxton, famous for the excellence of its wines, Belford andWhittingham platforms, and we emerge on to the famous Patricks Plains,passing through the valuable estates of Messrs. Dangar—Baroona lying tothe left of the line situate on a commanding site, overlooking a mostcharming and extensive view of the surrounding country, Neotsfield beinghidden away to the right, whilst the paddocks with their wealth ofpasture are thickly dotted with groups of cattle in splendid condition,who seem highly content with their comfortable quarters. Past Dalcalmah,the beautiful residence of the late D. F. Mackay, who I remember yearsago as the proprietor of “Bullamon” and “Nindygully” Stations on theMoonie, in the colony of Queensland—before the Messrs. Fisher becamethe purchasers—and where he passed many years in the pursuit of hisoccupation as a squatter, roughing it with his men through fair weatherand foul, and where, no doubt, he contracted the seeds of the diseasethat eventually terminated his life; past the magnificent BeebeahVineyard, the property of Mr. A. Munro, whose vines have won adeservedly high reputation for purity and flavor, and we pull up atSingleton, 49 miles from Newcastle, about half-past nine, quite readyfor the breakfast which awaits us, and which we have been anxiouslylooking forward to for the last half-hour.

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

Breakfast over, we get under way again, and pass over the bridge acrossthe Hunter, where a former member of the New South Wales LegislativeAssembly now does duty as gatekeeper; and that reminds me of a racystory told at his expense, as follows:—During his Parliamentary careerhe on one occasion received an invitation to dinner at Government House,which, of course, was duly accepted; and at length, arrayed in fullevening costume, he had the pleasure of stretching his legs underneaththe Governor’s mahogany. Waiting at table was at that time reduced to ascience in the “uppah succles,” and our worthy M.L.A., who felt ratherat sea in such high and dignified company, awoke some compassion in thebosom of his right-hand neighbour, who, to relieve his embarrassment andto make him feel at home, engaged him in conversation on the varioustopics of the day. Soup was duly served, when a remark from hisright-hand neighbour caused our friend to lay down his soup spoon andturn his head to reply. In a twinkling his plate disappeared, to ourfriend’s utter astonishment; but a supply of fresh fish brought peace tohis soul for the time being, when “A glass of wine with you, sir,” fromhis friend caused him to relinquish his hold upon his fish-knife andfork, turn his head to reply, when, lo and behold! the balance of hisfish, plate and all, disappeared like a flash. Turning round to continuehis meal, our friend discovered his loss, and coming to the conclusionthat some practical joke was being played upon him, he determined tokeep a sharp watch during{6} the remainder of the repast. Everythingprogressed to his satisfaction until the joint was served, when the sameperformance was likely to be repeated; but our worthy legislator wasequal to the occasion, and, seizing his knife, he wheeled suddenly roundas he saw the waiter’s hand stretched forth to grasp his plate, and inlow but impressive tones said to the astonished waiter: “By Jove! if youremove that plate until I have finished with it I will chop yourblooming hand off.” Tableau. Still onwards, passing through some lovelycountry, both agricultural and pastoral, of which the famous RavensworthEstate forms no inconsiderable portion, noted in years gone by for theexcellent breed of horses raised there by Captain Russell, we at lengtharrive at Muswellbrook, the great store cattle market of the colony,where thousands of horned stock from distant parts of New South Walesand Queensland are annually brought under the hammer and disposed of tovarious buyers, a great number of them finding their way into the grandfattening paddocks of the Hunter River valley, there to be topped up forthe metropolitan market.

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

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

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

Onwards and upwards we go, winding around spurs and alongside steepranges, obtaining some magnificent views of the town and valley below,the prospect in some places being most lovely and enchanting, with itsbackground of noble-looking hills; and at length we plunge into thetunnel and intense darkness, from which we emerge into the far famedDoughboy Hollow, a famous camping ground in the olden days, where theteamsters who had surmounted the difficulties of the{7} range were glad torest themselves and their tired cattle before tackling the black soilplains of Breeza, and where they would gather round the camp fires atnight relating their various adventures by flood and field, backing“Doughboy” and “Damper” against “Bally” and “Brindle,” and swapping liesgenerally, until it was time to go to

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