Special Report from Cape River Gold-Fields [poem, 7 November 1868]

[Editor: A poem published in The Queenslander, 7 November 1868.]

Special Report from Cape River Gold-Fields.

Dear Sir: You say you’d like to know
How things go on up here,
And if a chap would “stand a show,”
If this way he should steer.
Well, as I have nothing else to do,
I’ll send you a report —
Not one like the Commissioner’s,
For that of truth’s far short —
But just a simple statement of those “stubborn things” called “facts,”
Without trying to prove black’s white, or that the whites are blacks.

An El Dorado you might think
This place was (by his showing),
But his “yarn” about the golden reefs
Is nothing more than “blowing.”
It’s true a little gold they’ve got,
And it is but very little,
But then to call them golden claims,
They’ve no claims to the title.
But, what is worse, by these reports too many are misled,
And prove the proverb, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”

For instance there’s No. 1, South*
They christened Homeward Bound,
(And talked of “fortunes” to be made
By those who held the ground).
Now I was told, but yesterday,
(By one who has to suffer
Through being “gulled” by these accounts),
The Homeward Bound’s “rank duffer.”
And far from being “Homeward Bound” (and ceasing more to roam),
His money’s spent, so longer he is bound to stay from home.

No. 1 North have sent some stone
To ——— to have it crushed.
You’d laughed to see the care they took
For fear it should be “rushed.”
A dozen men escorted it
With revolvers, of all sorts
(Fancy a “ranger” “sticking up”
Some three tons of hard quartz.
The bare idea is so absurd, dear Sir, it makes me grin.
Our bushrangers don’t stick quarts up, but down (and then it’s gin).

Now, there’s the works at Devonport —
Another Fortune reef —
They should be called unfortunate,
For it has come to grief,
Or very shortly will do,
Or else I’m much mistaken.
I should advise the workers,
While they’ve time, to “save their bacon,”
For, as they want machinery, I fear they’ll have to wait,
Except some (with “more coin than wit”) are game to speculate.

At Specimen they’ve grassed some stone,
More likely far to “shape”
Much better than the Devonport,
Or even Upper Cape.
All round about that quarter
Large nuggets have been found;
And the whole “lay” of the country
Looks “very likely ground.”
And, what is more, I think the men now working on that spot
Are kept up by good backers, and more energy have got.

I have no fear but what this will
Eventually, turn out
A very fair reef country;
For there can be no doubt,
That gold in large deposits
Not far off ’s to be found,
But want of water now prevents
The opening of new ground.
And I believe that those who can, and have the “pluck” to stay,
May realize a handsome “pile” at no far distant day.

Alluvial working’s “close up bung,”
Except on “Gehan’s Flat;”
But then the Chinamen have got
At least nine-tenths of that.
These “Chow Chows” have become a curse,
They’re foremost in the race,
And when a new “rush” does occur
They inundate the place.
Indeed there should be something done, to stop their bold advance;
These Tartars get so numerous, as quite to spoil our chance.

It’s very little good they do
For society or trade;
They’ll work for “next to nothing,”
Then think themselves well paid.
They have their own “grog shops” and stores,
And get their goods direct;
And should a brother deal elsewhere,
It is not thought correct.
Some folk would make “Pet Lambs” of them, and I scarce surprised should be
To hear that Ching Chang Choo Chi Foo had become an M.L.C.

Ah! “thereby hangs a tail,” dear sir;
Perhaps they’d be of use
If they got into Parliament,
For they might introduce
That which some there are wanting in (I do not mean offence),
But what is rather scarce just now —
A little “common sense.”
But there! I’m running off my theme, and I do not want to mix
Myself up with the “Chow Chows” any more than politics.

Well, let me see, where was I?
On the Flat, where I am told
There still are three or four fine claims
Now getting “slashing” gold;
And where about a month ago
An Emeralder called “Mick,”
Was fortunate, and dropped upon
A patch, ’twas pretty thick,
About a hundred ounces odd (a patch here seldom seen),
Because, “like angels visits,” they are “few and far between.”

With the exception of these few,
(I forget their owners’ names),
I don’t think there are twenty other,
Much more than “tucker” claims.
And “tucker claims” now scanty get,
Some men are on short bite,
The harvest storemen thought to reap,
I think has got the blight.
One thing is certain, if a change don’t shortly come about,
The half of them must “shut up shop,” or, at a loss, sell out.

The “Great Deep Lead” a failure proved,
Nine cases out of ten;
The most of them have left it now,
“Sadder and poorer men.”
I have heard it whispered about
(How folks will talk it shows),
The reports about this lead were but
To lead men by the nose,
And get a mob to rush up here, and then when they should come,
To do their best to poison them with shilling nobbler rum!

Socially, ’tis the most wretched place
I think I’ve met with yet —
Enough to make a fellow drink,
If credit he could get.
There’s no kind of amusement,
And, between you and me,
I think less die of fever here
Than by what’s called ennui.
From that complaint I’m suffering — I get so mad at times,
I throw down pick and shovel, and take to scribbling rhymes.

Farewell, dear sir, I just have heard
That there is a “new rush,”
So I must off now, “like a bird,”
And make tracks through the bush,
And do my best to get a piece
Of ground; I hope ’twill shape,
If not I mean to “roll up swag,”
And swagger from the Cape.
I’ll write again to you next week, if only just to say
How I get on. Till then remain yours

W. S. J.

October 10.

* Upper Cape.

The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld.), 7 November 1868, p. 7

Editor’s notes:
duffer = a non-paying or unproductive mine

Emeralder = an Irish person, i.e. someone from the “Emerald Isle”

ennui = a feeling of dissatisfaction, listlessness, or weariness arising from a lack of excitement or work; boredom

gull = to cheat, dupe, fool, hoodwink, or trick someone

M.L.C. = Member of the Legislative Council

nobbler = a drink of beer or spirits; a dram of spirits

ranger = bushranger

slashing = fine, splendid; very big; can also mean bright, brilliant, or vivid

[Editor: Corrected “The’ve” to “They’ve”.]

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