A Queensland Explorer: Speared to death by blacks [short story, 11 March 1911]

[Editor: A short story published in The World’s News (Sydney, NSW), 11 March 1911.]

A Queensland Explorer.

Speared to death by blacks.

(By E.J.W.)

As he stood breasting the bar of the “Traveller’s Rest,” away on the verge of the “Never Never” country in Western Queensland, many years ago, no one had any justification for supposing that he was a descendant of one of the earliest explorers of that prosperous State. He possessed no self-evident attractions, such as might have demanded recognition, over any one of the other half-dozen loungers about the premises, except for the marvellous dexterity with which he opened oyster tins with his sheath knife, and with the assistance of the same weapon conveyed the oysters to their final resting place. This done, he drank from the tins the liquor in which they had been embalmed, threw the empty tins out into the roadway, told the publican in cheery tones to “Chalk ’em up, old son!” and wandered off to a seat under the verandah, cutting up a pipe of tobacco as he went. In the course of conversation during the day he said he was staying there for a short spell, chiefly on account of his horses, but was heading for Brisbane, where he knew some people. Hadn’t seen them for nearly four years, been overseeing on a station on the Thompson, and looking for country still farther to the west. He proved to be a most interesting and versatile conversationalist, quoted Adam Lindsay Gordon freely, and expressed surprise that no monument had been erected to his memory, and in a sort of semi-apologetic way, declared:—

“I’m an Australian myself — pure merino, and proud of it, though I’m afraid I’m not much credit to the parent stock. No, not that way! Never drink more than I can carry comfortably, but if I had listened to reason when I was young I should have done better than I have I expect. The governor is dead now, he was a fairly big squatter when I was a kiddy, but the big drought broke him all up, and helped to kill him. Naturally enough I took to the bush, and been there ever since. Ever hear the name of Logan? Well, that’s mine. The governor’s father was Captain Logan, an army man, who was commandant over the penal settlement at Moreton Bay in the early days. From what I’ve heard about my respected grandfather he was what people now-a-days call ‘a hard case.’ The Logan River, that empties into Moreton Bay, was called after him, but that’s neither here nor there. He was a great fellow to go poking about in the bush making new discoveries, as he said. Sometimes he took two or three soldiers with him. Other times a light survey party, but he was always being warned about the niggers, and laughed at the idea of any risk from them.

“All the same it was there, and when the end came everybody said then, as they say now: ‘Didn’t I tell you so? I’ve heard the story often enough from the governor, but he was only a small boy when it happened, and he probably didn’t get a good grip of all the details. From what I remember of it, the captain was out on one of his trips, making a rough feature survey of some ground he had previously been over and thought a lot of. That was in or about the year 1830, but I’m not sure about the exact locality, only I know it wasn’t very far from Brisbane. Well, there was a mountain in the distance he wanted to know something more about, so he rode off in that direction, refusing to accept the suggestion that one of the men should go with him. Laughed at it, you know, in his general way, and said he’d be back in a couple of hours at the outside.

“And that was the last that was seen of my unfortunate grandfather until his mangled remains were found many days afterwards. At first the search was undertaken by the men of his own party when they looked in vain for his promised return.

“They rode about for a couple of days in the direction in which he was last seen, but could find no trace of him or his horse, and no sign of niggers. But if there had been a good bushman among them I expect they would have found tracks of some sort. However, they didn’t, and as they could do no more it was decided to return to the settlement and get some help to continue the search farther out. A big party was then sent, and for nearly a week they could find nothing, until the evening of the day before their intended return, the bodies of both horse and rider were found in a gully in broken country, both riddled with spears, and in an advanced state of decomposition. Logan’s remains were sent to Sydney, and interred with all the pomp and circumstance of a public funeral; his widow and two children were also sent to Sydney, and the eldest of those two kiddies was my father, who was a good man, hurried into his grave by undeserved misfortunes.”

“Very glad to have met you, Mr. Logan. You are quite an historical character. But, pray, don’t consider it a liberty if I venture to warn you against too many of those tinned oysters. They are not considered quite safe at all times.”

“Ha! So you noticed that, did you? Well, old man, if you had been as far out of the reach of getting anything of that sort as I’ve been for the last four years the temptation might be too strong for you also, and they were the only thing in the shape of fish they had in the place. Thanks for the warning, however, and good night.”

The World’s News (Sydney, NSW), 11 March 1911, p. 10

Editor’s notes:
Adam Lindsay Gordon = (1833-1870) a poet who spent most of his working and literary life in Australia; he was born in Charlton Kings (Gloucestershire, England), and migrated to Adelaide (South Australia) in 1853, at the age of 20; he worked as a mounted policeman, a horse-breaker, a Member of Parliament (in SA), and as a sheep farmer; he became a popular poet, due to such writings as “The Sick Stockrider” (1870)

Captain Logan = Patrick Logan (1791-1830), military officer and explorer; born in Scotland, joined the British Army, came to Australia in 1825 with the 57th regiment, put in command of the convict settlement at Moreton Bay in 1826, explored areas in Queensland, killed by Aborigines in 1870

kiddy = (slang) a young child (also spelt: kiddie)

pure merino = someone who came to Australia as a free settler (i.e. not as a convict); someone from a free settler’s family; someone from a socially prominent family; a wealthy person; someone of good character

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