Recollections of Work in the Dioceses of Newcastle
Up the Country
Work in a Pastoral District
Aborigines of Australia
Rev. Richard George Boodle
came to Australia on the Medway
in 1848 with the newly consecrated Anglican Bishop of Newcastle William Tyrrell and a party of other ministers and aides. They embarked on the Medway on 18 September 1847 and departed the Downs on 19th September 1847 however were compelled to put back in consequence of heavy gales which lasted four days. They finally departed on 24th September, passed the Lizard on 27th September; crossed the Equator on 12th November; passed the meridian of the Cape 10th December arriving in Sydney on 16 January, 1848.
Passengers mentioned in the Sydney Morning Herald Shipping List included:
Rev. Tyrrell, Lord Bishop of Newcastle; Rev. R.G. Boodle, M.A., Rev. H.O. Irwin
, M.A.; Mr. B. Glennie
, B.A., Mr. Josiah Rodwell
, Mr. G. Whifield, Mr. E. Williams, Mr. W. Bromfield, Mr. H. Ison, Mr. B. Peck, Captain Edward Courtenay, Mrs. Courtenay and child, Mr. Algernon Irby, Mr. T. Robinson, Mr. C. Moore, Mr. C.H. Macdonald, Mr. M. Bowman, Mr. J. Codrington, Mr. Selby, Mr. Pridham, Mr and Mrs Murphy and child, Mr and Mrs. Elliott, Mr. Logan and child, Mrs. Talford, Mr. J. Crow, sen., Mr. J. Crow jun., Mrs. Gardner, Mr and Mrs Dell, son, and three daughters, Robert Hashon, Hannah Willcox, Henry Ansell and Anthony Bull. 
Rev. Boodle noted the names of some of the passengers and the living arrangements on the Medway in his Biography 'The Life and Labours of the Right Rev. Tyrrell'......The Bishop's party consisted of his two examining Chaplains, the Revs. Henry Offley Irwin, late Curate of Park Street Chapel, Grosvenor Square, and Rev. Boodle, late Vicar of Compton Dando, Somerset; seven Candidates for Holy Orders ; his excellent housekeeper, Ann Gardner, who was invaluable to him as long as she lived ; a schoolmaster and schoolmistress ; a gardener and a groom who had been with him at Beaulieu, with the wife and children of the former, twenty in all. The Bishop had provided that the simple fittings of the cabins should be such as would be of service on the arrival of the party in Hew South Wales. Each had a narrow iron bedstead, ship drawers, a washstand convertible into a table, and a folding-chair ; so when they arrived at the unknown land, they might find themselves in possession of what was essential, but with no superfluities. His own bedstead, on the Procrustean plan, was no larger than the others, though he was considerably the largest man of his party. On this he ever afterwards slept, and on this, after thirty-two years of unremitting labours, he died
On arrival Rev. Boodle was appointed to work in the Muswellbrook district which extended 3000 square miles out past Cassilis.
In his Recollections which were published in the Missionary Register
in 1868, he described the journey overland to Muswellbrook in 1848 and his first impressions of the town. He gives a description of the often over-looked dray men who were then integral to the prosperity of the valley; and he gives a poignant portrayal of the remnants of the aboriginal tribes of the district, in particular a description of King Jerry who was possibly the same man who was described in Ellen Bundock's Memoirs
Below are extracts from his Recollections -
Recollectionsof Work in the Diocese of Newcastle
It was a bright Sunday morning on the 16th of January, 1848, when the ship 'Medway' entered the heads of Port Jackson, having on board the Right Rev. William Tyrrell, the first Bishop of Newcastle. His party consisted of two clergymen, seven candidates for the Ministry, a schoolmaster and mistress, and some servants from the Bishop's Hampshire parish of Beaulieu.
Our voyage had been a long one, 120 days from Gravesend, but the delay had not been unprofitable. A sudden change from English to Australian work, would have been like an abrupt transition from a dense to a rare atmosphere. The mental and spiritual constitution would not have been fitted for it. The pause gave time to prepare for the change; and the opportunity thus afforded of reviewing our past work in England, and considering the duties which were awaiting us in our new sphere, full as they must be of untried and novel circumstances, helped us, by God's grace, to enter upon our mission with greater calmness and circumspection, and not, I trust, with less determination, than if we could have passed suddenly from the one part of Christ's vineyard to the other.
The two daily Services, the Sunday congregations on the main-deck or in the cuddy, and the monthly celebrations of the Holy Eucharis - began as soon as the sea-sickness was over, and continued down the Atlantic, across the Southern Ocean, and up the Pacific - had joined us in imagination, as they kept us united in soul and spirit, with our blessed English Mother Church. The tedium of our ocean-life had been relieved by the regularity of our daily lectures to the candidates for the Ministry, and our own studies; as well as by the various little incidents of catching sharks in a calm, and dolphins in a breeze; and watching an occasional whale, or the shoals of flying fish in the tropics, as they sprung glistening out of the water, and, after their few hundred yards' flight, darted again, like a discharge of rifle-balls, into their proper element.
Our first view of Australia had been at Cape Otway, near Port Philip, the chief inlet to the rapidly growing colony of Victoria. I need not say with what interest we had scanned it, nor how eagerly, after passing Ninety-mile Beach on the south, and doubling Cape Howe, we had asked the name of each bay, or hill, or green spot, as we sailed up the eastern coast. Contrary winds had retarded us almost to the last; but at length, having passed the heads of Botany Bay, and having, a few miles further north, taken the pilot on board, we passed between those tall stern cliffs of sandstone which look down upon the chafing waters of the Pacific, and guard the entrance of one of the most lovely harbours in the world.
A long disastrous drought had lately been relieved by abundance of rain, and the headlands and islands, which rested on the blue waters, were looking bright with fresh green. Seven miles up the harbour lay Sydney, with her beautiful wooded promontories and sand-fringed coves, basking in the early sun. And as we glided up towards our anchorage on that calm summer morning, and saw the tall spire of St. James's Church rising out of the buildings that were each minute growing more distinct, we felt that the dearest part of Old England, her Church, made even a strange land home. About 9 a.m., the last bit of canvas was taken in, the anchor let go, and the ship at rest. What a feeling of security passes over you at that moment, as you find yourself fast by the ground, after four long months of perpetual motion; and how near seems the realisation of all the hopes, trials, and, if God please, successes, to which the heart has long been looking forward!
The venerable Bishop William Grant Broughton
, whose body now sleeps under the shadow of Canterbury Cathedral, was, at the time of our arrival, absent from Sydney on a visitation; but one of his clergy came on board to greet us. Under his guidance, the Bishop, with some of our party, landed; and proceeded to the temporary Cathedral of St. Andrew: while I was conducted with the rest to St. James's Church. We publicly returned thanks for the mercies of our safe voyage, and received our first Communion with our Australian brethren. It was a happy thing to kneel once more within the walls of a church; and I might have believed myself in Old England, but for the shrill noise of the tettigonia or locust, whose continuous whirr, like that of a scissor-grinder's wheel driven by strong steam-power, seemed to fill the whole air during the hot hours of the day.
In the evening, the mosquitoes awoke with their hum at the top of the room; and a few skirmishers attacked our hands and faces before making their descent upon us in force. I can never forget the open-hearted hospitality with which we were received by our Sydney brethren. Australian hospitality is not confined to new arrivals from England; through the whole of a sojourn of thirteen years I found it unvarying. But it is especially cheering, when you land upon a strange shore, and have everything to learn as to the details of living, to be received, as you are, like an old friend, with liberty to go in and out as you please, and every one ready to help you.
The new diocese having, up to this time, been a part of Bishop Broughton's vast see, we learnt from his Secretary what cures especially needed filling up. There were three to begin with: - Morpeth, twenty miles up the Hunter, where the navigable part of the river ends; Singleton, thirty-five miles further up; and Muswell Brook, thirty miles further inland on the same river: beyond which, toward the west, there was no clergyman, but sheep without a shepherd. The Bishop himself determined to go to Morpeth, to live at first in the Parsonage, and to take the duties until he could ordain one of the candidates, and place him there under his own eye. He kindly gave me my choice of the other, two, and I fixed upon Muswell Brook. My dear friend the Rev. H.O. Irwin
took Singleton as his work; each of us having candidates for the Ministry to reside with us.
The first movement was to despatch Mr. Irwin in charge of some of the candidates, and all the servants, to Morpeth, to await the Bishop's arrival, it being an object to remove them from the port, and to give them something to do. The Bishop wished me to remain with him, to see the Bishop of Sydney, our Metropolitan, as soon as he should return; and to have the benefit of his advice. I enjoyed this privilege in a few days, and then, with my pupils, followed the first detachment to the Hunter, leaving the two Bishops in consultation.
Newcastle, at the mouth of the Hunter, is sixty miles to the north of the heads of Port Jackson. Its situation on the side of a hill is good; and it looks inland up the river, over a broad valley filled with wood, and bounded on the south-west by the Wollombi range, and on the north-east by the hills of the Paterson and the Williams. At that time its railway was not thought of, nor its harbour secured by a breakwater, or so well filled with shipping as it now is. The Sydney Steamers
touched there to land passengers and cargo for the place, and then proceeded with their chief freight up to Morpeth
. For the first few miles up the river its banks are low and sandy; but by degrees they show some ten feet, increasing as you advance to twenty feet or twenty-five feet of rich alluvial soil above the water. In the midst of tall dead gum-trees, which had been purposely barked all round for some inches in width, and whose gaunt white trunks and branches had formerly a thick scrub and tangled festoons of creepers beneath them, were growing rich crops of maize, and lucerne to be cut for hay; and, in some places, tall-growing wheat. In the midst of these you might see stumps of large trees, about two feet and a half in height, where, after the crops of former years had been gathered in, the settler's cross-cut saw had thinned some of the dead forest giants, leaving the rest to be cut, and afterwards grubbed up at leisure.
Here and there were scattered the slab-built and bark covered huts of the owners or renters of these lands; and near them, occasionally, a small planked stage would run out on posts into the river, to enable the people to get their bags of wheat and maize, or their trusses of hay, on board the steamer on her way to Sydney; while a boat, tied to the little pier, heaved up and down in the waves made by the passing vessel. On our right, a few villas at long intervals, with their verandahs, tasteful gardens, and vines and orange-trees, showed a higher kind of civilisation. And after passing on the same side the 'townships' or villages of Raymond Terrace
at the mouth of the Williams river, and Hinton at the mouth of the Paterson, we rejoiced to find ourselves at last alongside the wharf at Morpeth, and some of our party waiting for us, ready to escort us to the Parsonage.
When I started on my first journey to my appointed district of Muswell Brook, taking with me two candidates for the ministry, and two servants, there was very little fencing to be seen after the first two miles above West Maitland. I had engaged the whole of the mail - a two-wheeled car, carrying one on the box with the driver, and four behind, with a modicum of luggage for each - and in a short time we came upon parts of the road where the ground was so saturated with water, or the ruts in the native soil so deep and wide, from the heavy rains, that our driver would frequently strike off among the trees, and, after many a winding, bring us back again into the worn and beaten track. Our journey that day was but thirty miles, from Maitland to Singleton. The greater part of it was through tall gum and ironbark trees, growing thickly together, with but little underwood or scrub: but occasionally we came to a place where the timber was thinner, and the appearance not unlike that of an extensive park.
Along the whole route there was but one apology for a bridge, consisting of some trees thrown across the little creek, one over another, and covered with earth; and bad enough it was. At all the other 'creeks ' - as the brooks or water-courses are called - the banks were cut down, sometimes to the depth of twenty feet; and we drove down, one side, through the bed of the creek, and up the opposite side. Probably in the one exception, at Anvil Creek, the creek bed may have been too soft to bear wheels at all. As might be expected, traffic was often stopped after heavy rains. Impatient horsemen might swim across; but vehicles were detained until the water had run off. The traveller of the present day would find not only a wide road with bridges over most of the creeks, but a railroad in use as far as Singleton, and nearly finished to Muswell Brook.
On our way, we passed through the two small townships or villages of Lochinvar and Black Creek; distant from Maitland seven and fifteen miles. At the former there was no outward mark of worship; at the latter there was a small Roman Catholic chapel, to which a priest came at intervals. Soon after the arrival of the Bishop, a wooden church was built at Black Creek; and after a while at Lochinvar a church and parsonage were built, and a clergyman settled there.
Singleton, which had then a population of about five hundred, now more than doubled, is built on the banks of the Hunter, on a wide alluvial flat called Patrick's Plains, from which most of the forest trees had been cleared; and good crops of wheat, barley, or maize were raised on the rich lands. It is in itself singularly devoid of beauty, as it is built on a dead level. But hills rise all around; and to the north, Mount Royal stands well among the broken ridges, from which the Paterson, Fallbrook, and the Rouchel flow. The little town had a brick parsonage, and a school used as a church; but in about a year from the time we first saw it, the foundation of a stone church was laid, which has since been considerably enlarged; and the windows have been enriched with stained glass.
We were detained here one day, as the mail, which started on the following morning, had not room for us. And as it at that time went on to Muswell Brook only two days in the week, we must have remained until the week following, had not the proprietor sent down especially to fetch us. The river being unfordable, we were put across in a boat, and found the vehicle awaiting us at the other side. We had hardly started, when, after pulling through some heavy black soil, we came to a shallow gully crossing our road; into which we sank with a bump; and one of the horses refused to pull us out of it. He looked the very picture of sulks and obstinacy, and probably remembered that soon after the gully a long stiff hill awaited him. The driver gave him a little time, and then tried him again. The other horse was willing, but could not move us by himself; and, when the whip was applied, the only indication our sulky friend gave of movement was to crop his ears, and show signs of resenting -with his heels any further use of the whip. Fortunately, I had a piece of bread in my hand, the remains of my breakfast; so I jumped out, and after patting and talking to the rebel a little, held the bread to his nose. The sulks were still strong upon him; but at length his ears came forward, he began to sniff at the bread, lifted his upper lip once or twice, and then fairly took the bait. The victory was nearly won: a few pats on the neck, and rubbing the nose, completed it. I took his head with my right hand, and still patted him with my left. The driver started the near horse; both took the collar; and with a good jump, that nearly shook the three inside passengers into each other's laps, the wheels got out of the hollow, and we were off again. I ran on, holding the rein for a short distance, till I saw that all was right, and then jumped into my place.
Much of our drive was through tall white-stemmed gum-trees, which shut in our view, and enabled us to appreciate to the full the badness of the road, as we bumped sometimes into a deep rut, sometimes over a large fallen bough; occasionally passing the carcass of a dead working-bullock, which told of the severity of the late drought; when the ground, which was now covered with bright green grass, had been bare as the road itself. Pleasanter, and more amusing sights were frequently afforded us, as from time to time flights of the rosella, or ground parrots, with their gorgeous crimson, green and blue plumage, rushed screaming over our heads; or that solemn-looking king-fisher, the great'laughing jackass'; made the wood ring with his merry peals of laughter; or a black and yellow iguana, three or four feet long, waddled along the ground, made for the first tree, and scrambled up out of reach.
The road was more hilly than before we reached Singleton; and sometimes from the top of a hill we obtained a fine view of valleys and hills in endless undulations, clothed universally with forest. At the several creeks which we passed, the view was more open, the grass more abundant; and the graceful casuarina, with its rich dark foliage and tapering branches, kept up a pleasant whispering sound over the streams or pools which it shaded.
On our way we had passed but one small township, called Camberwell, nine miles from Singleton, on the banks of Fallbrook. It consisted of a few wood-built houses, and a brick inn; but represented a district, in which a few years before there were several establishments of considerable size. On the opposite side of the brook was an unfinished stone church
, with three lancet lights at the east end, and single-pointed windows at the sides. Bishop Broughton, who laid the first stone, said that several among those present on that occasion could easily have provided the whole expense. Soon afterwards the reverses which overtook the colony so impoverished the principal men of the district that most of them were scattered to distant places, and the work was stopped. The church remained roofless until about the year 1856; when it was so far finished, that the Bishop of Newcastle consecrated it. But the original design, which included a tower, has not yet been carried out.
From Fallbrook to Muswell Brook the drive was more pleasant, but in that twenty miles we passed but two dwellings - one being a good stone-built inn in an open space, crossed by a watercourse, which had given it the name of 'the Chain-of-Ponds Inn
; the other a shepherd's hut, one of the humble-looking sources of the wealth of the country. To our right and left there were, no doubt, huts or larger houses a mile or two off the track: but they were out of our sight, and scattered very widely from each other. We were now fairly reaching the sheep-farming part of the country. And it may be as well to describe the dwellings of the shepherds at once. The simplest kind is the bark hut; which is thus made. A framework of posts and saplings is first fixed in the ground, and to this sheets of bark from the eucalyptus, three or four feet wide, half an inch thick, and from four to seven feet long, are tied with strips of undressed bullock-hide, usually called 'green hide.' The ridge piece is dried in a curve, laid over the top, and weighted down by heavy saplings slung across with green hides. The door and window-shutters, for there is no glass, are often of bark fastened to frames of wood; and the tables and bedsteads are not unfrequently made in the same manner.
The floor is the native earth; and inside the bark chimney boulders from the creeks are piled up, to prevent the fire from setting all in a blaze. Sometimes there is a skillen at the back of the hut; and now and then some sheets of bark in front form a verandah, and add much to the comfort of the inmates.
Slab huts are built much on the same plan; only that slabs, split from the gum or iron-bark, set into the ground and nailed to the wall-plates, form the sides and ends, instead of bark.
A watch-box, like that here represented, is often used when lambing is going on, or when the native dogs are troublesome; and the shepherd or hut-keeper has to lie near the sheep-yard, to be ready to render any help that may be needed through the night. It is a kind of barrow-frame, long enough for a man to lie in, and covered with bark, as a protection against cold and rain. There are usually two flocks, of a thousand each, at a sheep station, with a shepherd to each flock, who leads them out to feed by day; and there is a hut-keeper, whose duties are to clean the sheep yards, take care of the hut, and act as cook.
If there is a family at the station, the wife acts as hut-keeper; and if there is a boy big enough, he takes charge, under his father's direction, of the second flock.
On our way up the country, we had seen something of another class of men. Many drays had met us, carrying down wool, tallow, or hides to the coast; others we had passed on their way up the country, loaded with supplies of all sorts for the establishments of the large sheep and cattle masters, for the 'stores' in the inland towns, or for the publicans. One dray, which we passed the first day, was bringing up the furniture which I had purchased at Maitland.
The drays are large, two-wheeled carts, very strongly built, with low sides, and made to open, if necessary, before and behind. Those drawn by horses have shafts, and carry from twelve to fifteen hundred-weight The bullock-drays, which are drawn by eight or ten oxen, carry two tons. They have a strong pole, to which the yokes of the pole-bullocks, and the chain of the leaders, are fastened. Each night a halt is made, near water, if possible; the horses are unharnessed, and the bullocks unyoked, and turned to feed in the bush, with hobbles on their fetlocks. This being done, a fire is made of the dead wood, which is lying about in all directions. The quart tin pots are put on to boil, ready for the tea to be thrown in; and the salt beef and 'damper,' which is made of flour, water, and salt, kneaded on a sheet of bark, and baked in hot ashes, are drawn out of their bag for the evening meal. If several drays camp together, the men usually sit talking over their camp-fire until it is time to turn in for the night. They commonly carry a piece of sacking stuffed with dry grass; this they lay under their dray, and lie on it, wrapped in a blanket, or in a rug made of opossum skins. If the stopping-place is near a township, or one of the inns which are scattered along the chief lines of road, the evening is too often spent in the tap-room, and rum takes the place of tea, to the mischief of the poor fellows, who are very apt to drink. A few of the draymen, however, entirely avoid this temptation, and stick to their tea. A mid-day halt is also necessary to refresh both man and beast. These draymen are a considerable class, and need special treatment, if the pastor will really try to perform the duties imposed on him at his ordination.
They spend most of their time on the road, seldom remaining at their homes longer than to rest their horses or bullocks; and many live in the Bush, far from any place of divine service. A few, but few indeed, take their best clothes with them, so as to be able to go to church, if they stop at a town on Sunday. Therefore, if one does not minister to them on chance occasions, they probably go almost without any ministrations at all. I soon felt it to be my duty to walk by their side, if not pressed for time, and to converse with them; and if I found any encamped at mid-day or in the evening, having my Bible and Prayer-book strapped in a kind of ecclesiastical holster before me, I offered to read and pray with them, and never found my offer rejected. On one occasion, as I was riding down to Morpeth for an ordination, I came upon some six or seven encamped among the tall gum trees, five miles short of Singleton. It had been dark some time, and they were sitting on fallen trees round their fire before turning in for the night. I rode up to them, and said, ' My friends, I am a clergyman riding down the country; and as I am accustomed to have prayers with my household when at home, I shall be glad, if you like, to read you a chapter of Holy Scripture, and pray with you before I go on.' They assented at once, took my horse, and tied him to one of their dray wheels, and threw on some fresh wood to enable me to read. I was rather too tired to stand, so they set an empty water-keg on end, and, putting their cabbage-tree hats beside them, listened attentively to a chapter from one of the Gospels, and to my comments upon it..
But we must return to the conclusion of our first journey up the country. After toiling over some very bad road, we reached the top of a high ridge, with the ground sloping down before us, and more thinly timbered than we had seen for many miles. And there, to our delight, the driver pointed out the snug little village of Muswell Brook. It lay below us about two miles off. We could not see much of the buildings; but the general view from the hill was very fine; and we longed for some of our dear English friends to share it with us. There was no lack of hill and valley, covered with wood as usual; except where, along the courses of the brook and the river Hunter, which here we saw again for the first time since leaving Singleton, man's hand had made clearings for the town, and for small patches of cultivation on the alluvial soil.
We were now rapidly approaching our destination. But before we reached the wooden houses of the white skins, we were reminded in whose land we were, by seeing some dozen of those houseless, homeless children of the Bush, the black natives, who had happened to camp close to the township, and were lying or squatting on the ground, with their curly heads uncovered; the elders with a blanket skewered at the neck by a piece of sharpened stick, or with merely a small girdle round their loins. Two or three little children were playing round them, clothed simply in their own black skins; which, by the way, even in the case of adults, is almost of itself a clothing, and takes away the idea of nudity. They had evidently passed the night there, as there were several sheets of bark resting with one edge on the ground, and propped up in a slanting direction, so as to make a slight shelter from the windward. Some smouldering ashes, the remains of last night's fire, were before them; and under one piece of bark an old gray-haired aboriginal was lying on his blankets, asleep.
They turned to look at us; but we were passing on, and at about two o'clock we entered the south part of the town, for it is divided into two parts by the deep creek from which it derives its name; and, driving over a very substantially-built wooden bridge, we drew up in a few minutes at the Royal Hotel
. Nine years before this had been the only building in the place, a mere Bush inn, surrounded by forest And, in spite of its name, it was only a weatherboard cottage, with the royal arms standing, not very conspicuously. The first business of hungry travellers, who had breakfasted more than seven hours before, and had a long Bush-drive since, was to get something to eat. And then, as the Royal Arms could only accommodate two, I left the candidates for the ministry in possession, and went with the servants to the next small inn, about two hundred , yards farther on. Having thus fixed our abode till the furniture should arrive, we went down to look over the empty parsonage and the church. They were both within one fence, and the school about a bow-shot beyond.
I found the sexton preparing the church; for it was Saturday, and it was known that we should arrive that day. From him I heard of one poor woman, who was drawing near her end; so, having set my boy to begin upon the weeds, which in the last few weeks had nearly overrun the garden, and were choking the vines, I began my ministrations by the bedside of poor Mrs. (Sarah) Wilde, whom I saw twice, and promised to administer the holy communion to her on the next day. The rest of that first afternoon was spent in learning what I could about the parish from the schoolmaster and my host, and in preparing for the services of the morrow.
Work in a Pastoral District
The township of Muswell Brook, which was to be my head-quarters, is situated on the north-western road, which leads from Morpeth and Maitland
to the great squatting districts of the Liverpool plains
and New England. The southern road to Sydney, surveyed by Sir Thomas Mitchell
, joins the mainland road here. But while the northwestern road is the great line of traffic to the coast from Tamworth
, and Armidale, and the surrounding country, the southern road is unused, except for some small intermediate townships, as Jerry's Plains and Wollombi. The formidable ranges, which have to be crossed near the river Hawkesbury, have always been a barrier to dray traffic; and even horsemen prefer riding to Morpeth, and taking the steamer to Sydney, instead of toiling along the rugged and weary southern line.
In 1848 Muswell Brook had a population of about 300, including a doctor
and a clerk of petty sessions
. There were four or five storekeepers
- most useful men in a colonial town - who kept in stock nearly every article you could need, except books; and five publicans, largely supported by travellers, draymen, and shepherds from the neighbourhood, as well as by some of the residents in the town. At one end there was a steam flour-mill
, with machinery attached to it, which has at times been used in a small way for making cloth. And at the other end was a 'boiling-down establishment,' where, before the influx of the population, caused by the gold discovery, the surplus fat stock of the settlers was killed, and reduced to tallow for export. Blacksmiths, wheelwrights, rough bush-carpenters, joiners, masons, bricklayers, and the other small tradesmen and labourers necessary to supply the wants of their neighbours, some six or eight carriers, and the police force, consisting of a
chief and three constables
, were the elements of the little community.
Like all young colonial townships, it was laid out in good broad streets, which bore their names on the Government chart; but, except in the best situations, were scantily built over. Here and there, in the middle of the roadways, might still be seen the stumps of the old forest trees standing, as the cross-cut saw of the first clearing had left them, obliging all drivers to keep their eyes about them for fear of an overturn. Of the houses only about twenty were built of brick : the rest, including the little, low, four-roomed cottage, dignified by the name of 'the court-house,' were built of slabs, split from the surrounding trees, or of weather boards. On the hill to the east of the town stood a Presbyterian kirk, served at intervals from Singleton; and on a twin hill were the foundations of a Roman Catholic chapel.
Almost in the centre of the township there was an allotment of two acres, on which had been built, only a few years before, a brick school, with a master's dwelling, a parsonage, and a church, consisting of a nave, with a somewhat pretentious porch and vestry, built transept-wise, and a small tower at the west end.
There was no chancel, but in the east end were three quasi-lancet lights, each with a thin stone moulding over it, and glazed with square panes in wooden sashes, Gothicized at the top.
Within were high pews of red cedar, the top moulding of which came well up to the back of the head of the sitter; and when the congregation was kneeling the church seemed to be empty. In my journal I have recorded that I was 'disappointed' at the first view. But this was perhaps unreasonable, as mine was the westernmost church in the new diocese. Not a building for any kind of worship was to be found between it and Western Australia. Besides, there was something in the central position and grouping of the buildings which gave the idea that the church had rooted itself among the people, and offered to be their true mother in God. When, in about eighteen months after, a chancel was added, with a triple lancet in stone, and two of the nave windows were replaced by stone-worked and mullioned lights! and after a while the seats became low and open, the general view, with all its faults, brought to mind 'the old country,' to which all colonists look back with affection.
The history of that little church is characteristic of the colony in those days. Before a resident clergyman was appointed, subscriptions had been raised, and Government money promised for the building. A captain in the army
, then a settler, living about four miles off, took the contract for building the nave, with the porch and vestry. The plan was said to have been drawn from the sketch of a chapel in Barbadoes, given in a quarterly report of the S. P. G. But whatever was the original of the plan, its execution was intrusted to a convict overseer, and convict labourers. These men, acting upon a well-known principle of convict morality, no sooner saw the master off to Sydney than they neglected their work, for which, as convicts, they would receive no payment, and worked for any one who would employ them, spending their earnings in drink. At length they heard that their master was shortly coming up the country, and knocking off their extra jobs, which might have brought them under the lash, they turned to their neglected task. But, in the meantime, there had been heavy rains, and the trench was half-filled with water. Some of this was dipped up; at one corner the foundation was solidly built, the rest was thrown in with careless haste - the stones, small and large, alike unsquared, being left, as I was told, to bed themselves; and over all a cut base-course was placed, and the brick-work carried up above. In due time a surveyor was sent to inspect the work, in order to report whether it was executed in such a way as to entitle the trustees to the payment of the Government grant. On the day of inspection the overseer contrived to open that corner of the foundations which he had built up well. The fraud answered, and the money was paid. But before Bishop Broughton came up for the consecration, the faulty foundation had betrayed itself, and the walls were so cracked that the whole building was nearly coming down again. With much trouble the walls were secured; and the
Rev. W. F. Gore
, who had a little before that time been appointed to the parish, got the tower built at the west end, which both improved the look of the church externally, and acted as a buttress to keep it up.
I cannot put on paper my few recollections of the aborigines of New South Wales without a feeling of sadness. As an Englishman and a Churchman, I am bitterly ashamed, nay, I am afraid of the account to be rendered at the Judgment day, when I reflect how the arrival of my fellow-countrymen, bearing the name of Christian and having the habits and appliances of civilisation, brought a curse upon those wild children of the forest, debased a large part of them by fresh sins, instead of raising them towards the God who made them, and has been the cause of their rapid diminution in numbers, if not of their complete extinction. Some persons speak very complacently about the law, as they call it, by which the savage fades away before a civilised race. But unhappily the working of this law is to be traced only too evidently to the human agents. It is not so much to the white man's musket or rifle, used in self-defence or in protection of property, that the destruction of the aboriginal inhabitants is to be traced, as to the white man's drunkenness and the white man's lust, which have imported deadly diseases into the native veins, and have not only caused many premature deaths; but have checked the birth of native children, who might at least have filled up the gaps made in their ranks by death.
We are accustomed to see in the return of the Registrar-General of England a large annual increase of population. In New South Wales and other Australian colonies, there has been a considerable annual decrease in those tribes which have been brought into connection with the white man, the decrease being in proportion to the intercourse between the two races. Collins, the historian of the early years of the colony, makes mention of several native tribes which he saw on both sides of the Sydney harbour. When I landed in Sydney in January, 1848, not one individual of those tribes remained alive. I saw one wretched drunken native in the suburbs, who belonged to a distant tribe: but those men, women, and children, who used to fish in the waters of the north and south shores of the harbour, were simply wiped out; and, except in God's book of remembrance, and in the future resurrection, were as though they had never existed.
There the Englishman had first set his foot and multiplied: and there the natives were not driven away, but simply extinct. The same result has followed in different degrees in most other parts of Australia. In a report on the Australian aborigines ordered to be printed by the House of Commons in 1844, there is a letter from a Missionary at Port Phillip to Mr. La Trobe, the Government Superintendent, dated 1842; in which it is stated, that the population of four tribes immediately round the station had, since the beginning of the Mission a period of four years, decreased one half, and the writer adds: ' If should the present state of things continue, but a very few years will suffice to complete the annihilation of the aborigines of Australia Felix'
Here my lot was cast, on the Hunter River, the extermination was far advanced, though not quite complete. It must be remembered that before 1831 the white man had not settled on the Hunter valley from Morpeth upwards. Only twenty-seven years later, when I first saw it, the sight of two or three natives about Morpeth and Maitland was of rare occurrence: and they were, in nearly all cases, those who would hang about public houses for drink. As you advanced farther from the places which had been longest settled, you might now and then see small knots of natives. In the district intrusted to me, measuring roughly from Muswell Brook to some few miles beyond Cassilis, about 3000 square miles, there were of men, women, and children, about sixty remaining; the small fragments of several independent tribes, who, like partridges in the winter, when the sportsman's gun has thinned the envoys, had amalgamated , and at certain times would assemble from various parts of the bush to hold a corrobboree, or native festival, which was but the shadow of such meetings in former times.
Farther to the west and to the north, in the districts of the Castlereagh, New England, the Clarence and Richmond rivers, and Moreton Bay, the tribes were more populous. Mr. Oliver Fry, Commissioner of Crown lands on the Clarence river, made a report in 1843 to the Hon. E. Deas Thompson, the Colonial Secretary in Sydney; in which he says that on the Clarence river 'were seven tribes, containing from fifty to one hundred men in each; and on the smaller river, the Richmond, four tribes, numbering about one hundred in each. The aggregate of the district under his charge, including some other tribes besides those mentioned, was about 2000. I am unable to say to what extent the present census of that part of the colony would differ from that which he furnished more than twenty-four years ago: but he mentions, quite as an independent fact, a distinction between the tribes of those parts and others, which I cannot but consider one chief cause of the larger native population of that neighbourhood; that they have 'evinced a disinclination to almost any intercourse with the settlers, manifested by the exceeding infrequency and short duration of their visits to the stations: nor can they,' he continues, 'be prevailed on to allow a white man to approach their camps, and in no instance have they ever become domesticated, or attached themselves to any establishment on the river.' Neither the home Government of those days, nor the authorities in the colonies, are chargeable with indifference to the preservation of the natives. On every occasion they showed their anxiety for their welfare; and had the same spirit prevailed among the convict population and free settlers, the efforts made for their civilisation and conversion would have had some prospect of success.
In a despatch from Downing Street to Sir George Gipps, Governor of New South Wales, dated December 20th, 1842, Lord Stanley, after commenting upon the unfavorable reports both of the Missionaries and of the 'native protectors,' concludes, 'I should not, without the most extreme reluctance, admit that nothing can be done; that with them alone the doctrines of Christianity must be inoperative, and the advantages of civilisation incommunicable. I cannot acquiesce in the theory that they are incapable of improvement; and that their extinction before the advance of the white settler is a necessity, which it is impossible to control. I recommend them to your protection and favorable consideration with the greatest earnestness, but at the same time with perfect confidence: and I assure you that I shall be willing and anxious to co-operate with you in any arrangement for their civilisation which may hold out a fair prospect of success.' The colonial authorities on their part endeavoured to protect the natives from injury, and to promote their civilisation. Laws were made and penalties enforced for their good. It was made penal to sell spirits to them; and the police were charged to prevent the white men drawing the native women away. Considerable sums were expended out of the proceeds of the lands sold to settlers by Government for the support of native ' protectors,' whose duties were not only to protect the aborigines against wrong, but to endeavour to teach them the arts and habits of civilised life. Lands were set apart for them in different districts, tools were provided, blankets and food given, and encouragements held out to them to betake themselves to agriculture and pastoral pursuits.
Among the settlers themselves there were some few who interested themselves in the welfare of the natives around them, treated them with kindness, and taught them, as well as made use of their services.
But the example of the majority of white men in the bush was so unchristian, and their treatment of the blacks so demoralising, that the Missionaries desired to be removed as far as possible from them. And as the sheep and cattle stations were gradually pushed farther into the interior and surrounded them, they asked to be removed still farther into the unsettled parts
I have before stated that when I arrived at Muswell Brook I found but sixty individuals alive out of the five tribes that once roamed over the large area comprised in my clerical district. Very rarely did any considerable number even of these meet in one place: they generally wandered in parties of from two or three to twenty; sometimes camping for a few days near a township, and then scattering among the hills or by the rivers, and disappearing for months. Occasionally, in a long bush ride, a few might be overtaken (with their hatchet, boomerang, and waddy stuck in their girdle) with a lump or two of fat twisted among the curls of their hair, and perhaps their gins or wives following, carrying by the tail the newly killed opossums. The clothing of the men was sometimes a striped shirt, sometimes a blanket given by Government, sometimes nothing but their girdle. The women usually wore a blanket or opossum rug, unless some white woman had given them a gown. I saw at once how little I could hope to effect with those whom I could so seldom see, and whom I had not time to search out: but it was a plain duty to seize every possible opportunity of conversing with them.
My first attempt was to learn the language; but it was not very successful. I found one of the survivors of the Merton tribe, King Jerry; who, from intercourse with the white man, had picked up a fair stock of broken English: and I agreed with him that he should teach me, and I was to give him a dinner each time. The first lesson was short, and Jerry was well satisfied: the second time I kept him about an hour, which proved altogether too much for his patience. As we sat in the verandah be continually stopped me to ask, 'When you give me what you promise me' He looked wistfully towards the kitchen to see if the cook was coming; and showed every symptom of weariness. When his dinner arrived he did full justice to it; but he avoided me for the future, and I had no more teaching from King Jerry.
Finding that I could get so few opportunities of learning the language, but that many of the natives could talk and understand broken English, I devoted my endeavours, when I could meet with them, to winning their confidence and teaching what I could. And I found that some of the teaching, at least, was remembered. One afternoon in 1849, as I was on my monthly journey to Merriwa, I overtook a party of about fifteen returning to their camp, which was then at the township, some women and children were among them. One gin had her infant, where they usually carry them, at her back; sitting in a fold of her opossum rug, and looking over his mother's shoulder. Two or three little boys, fat little fellows, full of fun and merriment, were running about by the side of their elders, clothed only in their own black skins, and throwing with exuberant glee some toy boomerangs, which, I suppose, their fathers had made for them. We were more than a mile from the township: so I dismounted, and, after a few ordinary observations, determined to teach what I could. I had made up my mind that my first teaching must be the existence of God, His omnipresence, and His moral government. The sun was towards the west; so pointing to it I said,
'See big sun! You know who made him' The only answer was a laugh and a look of inquiry. I took off my hat and bowed my head as I said, pointing to the sky, 'Great God make sun.' The same question was asked in reference to many different objects - the ground on which we were walking, the trees around us, the river, the bills, the beasts and birds: and pausing for a few seconds after each question, I gave the same answer as before, with the some gestures of reverence; and then said, 'Great God make me white fellow, great God make you black fellow,' and then, spreading out my hands, 'Great God make 'em all.' By this time we were on a ridge, and twenty miles to the north rose clear and distinct the bold Liverpool range. Pointing to it I asked, 'You see black fellow up on big range? Black fellow on big range see you, me? You see Muswell Brook ?' (Forty-five miles over the hills to the east.) 'You see Cassilis ?' (twenty-five miles to the west.)
And then, as the half-inquiring laugh followed each question, I said, uncovering my head, ' Great God see black fellow on big range - see you, me - see Muswell Brook - see Cassilis - see all place. Dark night - no star, no moon, no camp fire - all dark: you no see, great God see; see in dark, see in light - see you me now - see you me all time.'
In similar broken language, and referring to the white man's gardens and fruit, with which the natives were well acquainted, I spoke of Eden as a mark of God's love; the prohibition, the sin, and the punishment.
We had now reached Merriwa and each went our way, with a mental prayer on my part that God would bless the seed I had been attempting to sow in those poor untaught hearts. Several months later some blacks came to me at Muswell Brook, offering to get me some native honey; for which when brought I paid them in flour and meat. I asked them to come into the verandah, as I wished to speak to them. I did not know them, for to an unpractised eye one black is not very easily distinguished from another. When I began to say much that I had said on the last occasion, one who appeared to be listening attentively said; ' That what you tell me up at Merriwa.' It was evident that, if I had forgotten his features, he had not forgotten my words. 'Have I seen you before?' ' Oh! you not know me - I Peter.' ' Well, Peter,' said I, looking fall into his face, which, though certainly not good-looking, had an expression far from unpleasant, ' I not know you now, I know you after. Glad you think what I told you.' He said he had thought of it much, and had talked of it to other natives.
It was but seldom, and usually at considerable intervals, that I could see my poor black friend. The jealousy of his tribe, which feared the influence of the white man, kept him much away. From him I learnt a little of their native vocabulary; and when I had the opportunity of seeing him, carried on his teaching. He told me that he and his people had no prayer or worship of any kind. He said that when he was a boy he used to hear the voice of the spirit of the woods in the dark stormy nights, but he had heard nothing of him since. Into that chaos dark and void I tried to infuse something of the knowledge of God. Peter's was a mild, kindly disposed, and trustful disposition, and I was beginning to have great hope that ere long I might have had the privilege of baptising Him unto Christ, but it was not granted to me. Some time in the winter of 1850, on my return from Cassilis, my servant told me that a native woman had been to the parsonage during my absence to ask for some tea and sugar for Peter, who was ill, and some had been given. The next morning I started with Mr. Kemp (who was reading with me for Holy Orders) to see what else poor Peter might want. The native camp was a mile out of the township towards St. Helier's, a station then the property of the widow of the 'late
Col. Henry Dumaresq
. The rain was falling in a heavy, determined, business-like way, without wind: and on reaching the camp we found poor Peter lying on the ground under the partial shelter of a sheet of bark, with a log fire burning before him; and suffering from intense headache. He had been ill for some time; and his face had a ghastly look, as if half the blackness had been washed out of it. I persuaded him to walk home with us, had a bed made for him on the kitchen-floor by the fire, and gave him some medicine and some gruel. Next morning he told me, ' Cobborn house make him go round, round, round,' ie. the big house made him feel giddy. And before midday two of the men of his tribe, jealous of my keeping him away from them, came for him, and took him back to the camp.
The party soon moved; and some time after I heard that Peter was better and had taken a job of shepherding at a station in another clerical district. Not long after this I heard that a native at the gate wanted to speak to me. I had never seen him before, but saw he was oppressed with some great grief. He burst into tears, as I went up to him, and said bitterly, ' Poor Peter dead ! poor Peter, your black fellow, dead! he my brother.' He told me that he was far away in the interior when Peter died; and having just returned he had been sent by his uncle to inform me of his death, and to bring me Peter's dying message. The poor fellow had again been very ill; and one day said to his uncle, 'I murry bad, take me to Mister Boodle, Muswell Brook.' He walked a short distance with great difficulty, leaning on his uncle; and then finding his end approaching said, ' I no go further ; I die. You bury me. Go to Mister Boodle; say to him, I going to Almighty God.' -
Mission Life: Or Home and Foreign Church Work
Notes and Links
1). James Bowman
donated land for this church
). Probably Captain David Charles Frederick Scott
3). See Ellen Bundock's Memoirs
for another mention of King Jerry
4). The life and labours of the Right Rev. William Tyrrell, D.D. first bishop of Newcastle
, New South Wales by Richard George Boodle
5). John Boucher West
was a medical
practitioner at Muswellbrook in the 1840's
6). Edward Agnew
of Petty Sessions at Muswellbrook in the 1840's
at Muswellbrook in 1848 included The Muswellbrook Inn
, The Royal Hotel
, The White Hart Inn
, Tradesman's Arms
and the Shamrock Inn
s keepers included Lewis Lipman
, Pierce Hegarty
and William Kerr
9). George Chivers ran the steam mill
10). St. Alban's Church Muswellbrook. The Scone Advocate
(NSW : 1887 - 1954) Tue 20 Jun 1939 Page 1 AN INTERESTING RECORD THE OLD AND THE NEW CHURCH
 Sydney Morning Herald 17 January 1848
 The Life and Labours of the Right Rev. Tyrrell p.30