Sunday 31 March 2013

Interesting New Book

Mrs Patsy Coverdale recently published her book 'North Queensland in Black and White - A social history with stories, views and archaeology'.  Now nearing eighty years of age, Mrs Coverdale while a child growing up surrounded by tropical rainforest and sugar cane country, had developed a strong interest in the Aboriginal people who lived near her home in Redlynch, Cairns.  She was beginning to learn a few thing about their lives and legends and she also remembers Mr Xavies Herbert, the celebrated author visiting her home back in the 1950's.  In the mid 1980's, she enrolled at the La Trobe University to study sociology and then followed a decade of irregular visits back up to the Far North to document the stories she heard during her childhood and to interview older local people for her manuscript on the relationship between the indigenous people and the white settlers.  An appealing book for those interested in learning a little about the lifestyle, myths, pre-history and history of the local indigenous rainforest people.  Mrs Coverdale's book was nominated for the 2011 National Seniors Australia Phillpotts Literary Prize.

Thursday 28 March 2013

Glenville Pike's Early Writings

While yarning about the campfire the other evening, the conversation got around to the subject of the very early writings of the late Mr Glenville Pike.  Farnortherner decided to 'Google' Glenville to get an idea of just what he managed to get published during his teenage years.  His autobiography only briefly examines his very early literary efforts and it was a surprise to find the quantity and quality of his early writing.  Mr Alex Vennard, who at that time edited a children's section in the North Queensland Register newspaper and the Townsville Bulletin under the pen-name 'Maurice Deane', enrolled Glenville in his column as a member of the Golden Rule Club in March 1936 while he was just at the age of 10 years.  He went on to write many letters to this column over the following six years and it was here that Glenville had his first short story 'The Captive' published in September 1936 under the pen-name 'Ivanhoe'.  In May the following year he had published a longer story about a dog entitled 'Gyp to the Rescue' which was printed in two parts.  But it was March 1938 when he had published his first serious venture into historical writing with a novelette that was serialized called 'Forbidden Territory'.  It was written with the help of his mother and was set in 1840 and concerned the pioneers and Aborigines.  This ten part serial was followed up with a sequel in December of that year entitled 'Into the Unknown' which ran through to February 1939.  In May 1940, while still only fourteen years of age, he hd an eighteen episode story entitled 'A Lonely Land' published as a serial.  Later at the age of sixteen, he had a five chapter serial entitled 'One Good Turn' published in May 1942, before the 'Children's Corner' column was wound down to make way for extra war news.  A great apprenticeship for a literary career that was to last seventy-five years. 
Teenage Glenville at his writing desk


Wednesday 27 March 2013

Deighton River Expedition

A call was received from Welcome Station in mid-January stating that a bush fire had just burnt through the eastern side of the property.  This call was promptly answered by the intrepid adventurers, Duncan, Robert and myself.  We quickly organized a trip, packed up our gear and together drove the three hours up to Laura and then out to the Station to explore the area about the Deighton River.  It had previously been noted on an old geological map where the position of the track to the Palmer River Goldfield, the Douglas Track (also known as the Hells Gate Track) headed across from Cooktown to the Deighton River and beyond.

With station manager and fellow history buff, Bruce Burns and local Shire Councillor, Allan Wilson who also has an interest in the district heritage accompanying us, we headed across the stricken and grassless property to the Upper Deighton area.  Our party drove as far as practical before unloading a couple of four-wheelers and doubling-up, we headed up along the river.  With maps, aerial photos and GPS, we located the old crossing of the Deighton which traverse over an island in the river.  After crossing we soon found a blazed iron wood tree on a nice high flat of several acres which would have made a very convenient camping ground and then headed up past the supposed location of Owen's Public House.

By way of a small saddle, we crossed over a low dividing ridge that ran down to the river bank and of which was the most obvious pathway for the Track.  We soon found a deeply compacted pack track about a metre and half wide and approximately ten centimetres deep heading across the hill slopes above the river for several hundred metres towards the hills.  We followed the remnants of the Track towards a ridge which we thought was the most obvious place where it would climb into the hills.  After we lost all trace of the path, we returned to look for signs of the old pub site but to no avail.  All that was found after an hour or so searching over the area with metal-detectors was an old stone axe and several sugarbag trees.  No metal artefacts at all, not even a piece of broken glass was found.  We then crossed the river to the area we believed should have been the site of Christies Camp but found no evidence of it.

After nearly 140 years, little trace is left of the tens of thousands of men and pack horses who would have camped at this crossing on their way to the great gold rush.  Kathy (Bruce's better half) then joined our party for a late lunch by the river and several of us risked the crocodile hazard and cooled off in one of the water holes before heading back across the station to the homestead.  It was good to settle down with a cold drink after a rather disappointing day but an interesting one all the same.

We had better luck the next day when we hiked five kilometres up along the Little Laura River on the old dray road to Palmerville and found the iron work remains of an old dray.  What happened here to the dray will always be a mystery.  A topic which was discuss over a cup of coffee and biscuit with the local publican before we said goodbye to Bruce, Kathy and Allan and headed towards home.  The trip ended with a quick look about the Crocodile cattle yards where we found some erosion which we supposed was all that remained of the Douglas Track where it crossed the Laura River and made its way towards Quartz Creek and on up past Hells Gate.

This latest trip into Welcome Station did not accomplish all we set out to do, namely to find some remnants of the old Owen's Public House and Christies Camp but it was still good to catch up with the folk there and to enjoy another weekend exploring our northern heritage.

The flat about Owen's pub site

Water hole in the Deighton