Sir John Robertson, (1816–1891)

Sir John Robertson, (1816–1891)

Featured Image: Sir John Robertson and ‘Yarrandi’

By Bede Nairn

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

Featured Image: John Robertson (1816-1891), by unknown photographer

Herald & Weekly Times Portrait Collection, State Library of Victoria, H38849/3840

Sir John Robertson (1816-1891), land reformer and politician, was born on 15 October 1816 at Bow near London, third son and fourth child of James Robertson (1781-1868), watchmaker and pastoralist, and his wife Anna Maria, née Ripley (1784-1868), who were married at Stepney, London, in 1809. James was a friend of Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane and on his advice migrated with his family to New South Wales, arriving in Sydney in the Providence on 8 January 1822. Appointed general superintendent of government clocks he also worked as a watchmaker and silversmith; with an 86-acre (35 ha) grant he moved from Castlereagh Street to Robertson’s Point (Cremorne) on Sydney Harbour and acquired property in the Hunter River district at ‘Yarrandi’ (See featured image).

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Scone Heritage Walk

Scone Heritage Walk

Heritage Walk

Featured Image: St Aubin’s Arms 1872

Just around the corner from the Tourist Information Centre is the old railway station, a small brick structure dating from 1881.

From Elizabeth Park walk southwards down Kelly St. To the left is the Belmore Hotel (1866), an attractive symmetrical building with side wings, stone quoins and iron columns supporting a timber verandah. At the intersection with St Aubins St is the Royal Hotel with a fine cast-iron lacework balcony. The oldest section of the present building dates from 1886 when the old Railway Inn was rebuilt as the Railway Hotel. It was partially rebuilt after a fire in 1924.

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William John Dumaresq (1793 – 1868)

William John Dumaresq (1793 – 1868)

Featured Image: William John Dumaresq (1793 – 1868)

Henry Dumaresq (1792 – 1838)

Henry Dumaresq (1792-1838), and William John Dumaresq (1793-1868), were sons of Colonel John Dumaresq of Bushel Hall, Shropshire, England, and his wife Anne, née Jones. Both went to the Royal Military College, Great Marlow, and served during the Peninsular War and in Canada, where William, a captain in the Royal Staff Corps, was engaged in the construction of the Ottawa Canal. Henry, who served with the 9th Regiment (Lieutenant-Colonel 1818) was severely wounded at Waterloo, his gallantry being recorded by Sir Walter Scott in Paul’s Letters to His Kinsfolk (1816). While on service in Mauritius in 1818-25 he became military secretary to General (Sir) Ralph Darling, who married his sister Eliza. When Darling accepted office as governor of New South Wales, Henry was invited to become his private secretary and arrived in the Phillip Dundas in October 1825 to prepare accommodation for the governor’s party. Edward Dumaresq accompanied Darling as far as Van Diemen’s Land and William came with him to Sydney.

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Crown Lands Acts 1861 (NSW)

Crown Lands Acts 1861 (NSW)

Featured Image: Extract of Crown Lands Act 1861

Mathew Barber Miller was a beneficiary of this policy which enabled him to purchase his ‘block’ of 230 acres from William Dumaresq.

The Crown Lands Acts 1861 (NSW) were introduced by the New South Wales Premier, John Robertson, in 1861 to reform land holdings and in particular to break the squatters’ domination of land tenure. Under his reforms unsurveyed land in an area which had been declared an agricultural reserve in designated unsettled areas could be selected and bought freehold in 40-to-320-acre (16–130 ha) lots of Crown land, wherever situated at £1 per acre (£2 9s 5d/ha), on a deposit of five shillings per acre (12s 4d/ha), the balance to be paid within three years, an interest-free loan of three-quarters of the price. Alternatively at the end of the three years, the balance could be treated as an indefinite interest-free loan, as long as five per cent interest was paid each year. Selectors were required to live on their land for three years and to make improvements worth £1 per acre. Speculation was prevented by requiring actual residence on the land. In return pastoralists were protected by granting them, at the conclusion of their present leases, annual leases in the settled districts and five yearly leases elsewhere, with a maximum area or carrying capacity, and an increase in rent by appraisement of the runs. The pastoralist retained the pre-emptive right to buy one twenty-fifth of his lease in addition to improved areas, and also possessed the pre-lease to three times the area of the freehold. In addition they were to continue to possess the right to request the survey and auctioning of large parcels of their lease. This meant that they could bid at short notice for such land while other potential bidders were unaware that the land was on the market. The work of Alexander Grant McLean, Surveyor General of New South Wales facilitated the introduction of these Land Acts.

Subsequently there were struggles between squatters and selectors, and the laws were circumvented by corruption and the acquisition of land by various schemes, such as the commissioning of selections to be passed eventually to squatters and the selection of key land such as land with access to water by squatters to maintain the viability of their pastoral leases. The Land Acts accelerated the alienation of crown land that had been acquired under the principle of terra nullius, and hence accelerated the dispossession of indigenous Australians. The land acts paralleled the demands for similar legislation amending the United States Pre-emption Act of 1841, culminating in the Homestead Act of 1862, and was succeeded by similar legislation in other Australian colonies in the 1860s and Canada’s Dominion Lands Act of 1872.

Henry Dangar

Henry Dangar

The first European in the area was the 29 year old Government surveyor Henry Dangar who, in 1824, passed by the area just west of the present town site. He crossed over the Liverpool Range but retreated when attacked by the Geawegal clan of the Wanaruah people west of the Murrurundi town site.

Dangar’s favourable report on the district led to an immediate land grab by wealthy settlers who had been issued warrants authorising them to take up land. One of the first to investigate the new area was Francis Little who was seeking land for himself and his uncle Dr William Bell Carlyle. Little established Invermein in 1825.

Mary Ann Sutton, known as Granny Sutton, was accredited with having introduced the Prickly Pear to Australia.  She brought a small plant from England when she came out as a housemaid to Francis Little of Invermein

Carlyle was issued the grant of Satur which is now a suburb on the western side of Scone.

William Dangar, Henry’s brother claimed Turanville and Dr Archibald Little settled for Cressfield.  John Bingle established Puen Buen and Thomas Potter Macqueen took up his land grant at Segenhoe in 1826-7.

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“Pinkerton’s Track”

“Pinkerton’s Track”

Featured Image: ‘Pinkerton’s Track’ aka ‘The Great Ring-in’. The actual map was drawn by Alex Badior,  a former school teacher at Moonan Flat. At the time he was living at ‘Glenrock Station’ before retiring to live in Cessnock.

All three Pinkerton Brothers (David, William, James) distributed mail along the ‘track’

(Reproduced by kind permission of Scone & Upper Hunter Historical Society and ‘Pioneers of a Great Valley’)

William Pinkerton arrived aboard the ship ‘Lloyds’ on 4 September 1856 and married Elizabeth Dunbar (born in Scone) in 1863 at St Luke’s. Elizabeth was the daughter of Samuel Dunbar who arrived with the Millers and his wife Elizabeth (nee Parsons) who lived at ‘Gum Flat’, Gundy. William was sponsored to Australia by William Dumaresq of St Aubins. William selected a ‘Conditional Purchase’ of 40 acres, near Gundy on 15 April 1862 and built ‘Gum Flat’, his family property. The farm was eventually resumed and ‘drowned’ when Glenbawn Dam was constructed. Like his brother David, William acquired the mail contract from Scone to Moonan Brook twice weekly between 1869 and 1875 ‘to be conveyed on horseback’ with a stop at Gundy from 1875. At this time Gundy was a thriving village with three churches, a school, Literary Institute, two general stores, post office, hotel, baker, butcher, blacksmith and wheelwright. It would have been self-sufficient. William and Ann produced at least 11 registered children and there may have been two others? Both William and Ann survived well into their 70s and are buried in the Church of England cemetery in Scone.

James Pinkerton had married Mary MacCallum on 8 August 1844 at Barakell in Ireland and they had a family of nine children when they arrived in Australia in the early 1860s. James’ exact arrival date is unknown but Mary and the children arrived on the ‘Fairlie’ on 29 April 1863. James had come ahead of them and they settled in the Gundy district. James built a small cottage before acquiring ‘Tanborough’ on the Hunter River east of the village of Gundy under the ‘Conditional Purchase’ system which became the family home. Like his younger siblings before him James acquired the mail contract from Scone to Moonan Brook in 1868. James was a renowned horseman and once at age 64 won a ‘challenge race’ between Moonan Brook and Scone when he may have substituted one pie bald mount for another fresh one? A ‘ring in’ at the races began very early! Both James (84 at Gundy) and Mary (90 at Moonan Flat) lived to a great age. Both are buried in the Gundy General Cemetery. James and Mary had eleven children. The Pinkerton dynasty is an expansive one in the Upper Hunter Valley and many direct descendants still call the district home.

The Denison Diggings

The Denison Diggings

Featured Image: ‘The Denison Diggings’ Map drawn by Mrs Hazel Cox of Ganmain

It appears to me that the discovery of gold near present day Moonan in the early 1860s had a profound impact on the township of Scone. The latter was the main supply depot at a distance of c. 35 miles. It was a ‘hard ride’! I present the following reports extracted from Trove.

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About The Wonnarua

About The Wonnarua

Featured Image: Aboriginal Tribes in the Hunter Valley

We acknowledge the Wannarua people as the traditional owners of the land in the Upper Hunter. The Wonnarua people are united by a common language, strong ties of kinship and have survived as skilled hunter–fisher–gatherers in family groups or clans scattered along the inland area of the Upper Hunter Valley. Their traditional territory spreads from the Upper Hunter River near Maitland west to the Great Dividing Range towards Wollombi. The local Dartbrook-based tribe was the ‘Tullong’ with the ‘Murrawin’ on Pages Creek.

Meaning people of the hills and plains the Wonnarua were bounded to the south by the Darkinjung, to the north–west by the Nganyaywana, to the north–east by the Awabakal, and to the south–east by the Worimi peoples. The Wonnarua also had trade and ceremonial links with the Kamilaroi people. Their creation spirit is Baiami, also known as Koin, is the creator of all things and the Keeper of the Valley.

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Alan Brideoake: Lest we forget – portrait of a POW

Alan Brideoake: Lest we forget – portrait of a POW

Featured Image: Alan Brideoake at his home in Stafford Street

Alan Brideoake told me some fascinating tales of his encounters with elephants and their Thai handlers (‘Mahouts’) while incarcerated by the Japanese on the horrendous Thai/Burma railway construction. He actually gave me his copy of the book ‘Elephant Bill’ written by Lt Colonel Bill Williams of Burma which I treasure. I have written elsewhere about ‘Elephant Bill’s’ veterinarian son Dr Treve Williams who lived in Scone and later became chairman of the Australian Jockey Club.

One anecdote Alan told me was the violent death of a brutal Japanese overseer. Following some severe beatings an elephant picked him up by his trunk and smashed him against a tree. ‘Bad elephant’ Alan inquired of the Mahout? ‘No bad elephant’ replied the Mahout with a knowing look; ‘only bad man’!

Dale Hilly            April 25 2013 – 12:28PM

There are stories from his time as a prisoner of war that Allan Brideoake will never tell.

“It would be too horrid,” Mr Brideoake said.

He was one of over 22,000 Australians who were POWs of the Japanese in south-east Asia during WWll. Over 8000 died in captivity.

He was also one of 9500 Australian POWs who worked on the construction of the Burma-Thailand Railway, where 2646 Australians died in captivity.

It is well documented that they lived in atrocious conditions, fed meagre rations and were forced to work 12 to 18 hours without stopping. Many died from diseases such as dysentery and cholera but also starvation and beatings.

For a long time Mr Brideoake never talked about his World War ll experiences at all.

“They told us ‘Get home, don’t talk about it, get back to work’,” he said.

His father was a WWI digger wounded in France and Somme where he was gassed and blinded in one eye. He knew terrible things happened in war.

Mr Brideoake was 26 on his first Anzac Day at Weethalle after he returned from Japan and he hasn’t missed one since. For a while he was involved in the RSL organising the ANZAC day ceremonies.

He married Ruth who had written to him while he was in the services, had children and then grandchildren.

He bred Kelpies for fifty years, was a keen fan of sheep dog trials and rodeo.

For four decades he went to the Sydney Anzac Day march to “catch up with mates”.

His wife, Ruth, who was a member of the Australian Army Medical Women’s Service would come along and sometimes march. After the service they would have lunch on a boat on the harbour with his POW mates.

Over the years the marching turned to riding in jeeps.

“We used to get together and have a good time,” he said of his fellow POWs.

“It is a special day – you think of your mates.”

Over the last decade he told his family about some of his war-time experiences and he has even addressed Scone school students.

He tells of being six foot and weighing less than eight stone, being crowded onto a boat to Japan and not showering for seventy days.

“I suppose we all smelt a bit,” he said with a laugh.

“I never said anything until about ten years ago, but I wouldn’t tell everything,” Mr Brideoake said. “People never understood the POWs – they will never understand.

“We were closer than brothers.

“We would get into gangs of about ten and look after each other.

“Malaria, cholera, tropical ulcers that lead to amputations…. When your friend needed help you hopped in because you knew your time would come.

“There would be an extra spoonful of rice from each of us – nine spoonfuls of rice doesn’t sound much but it was the difference of life and death for a sick man.”

For the last five years Mr Brideoake has taken part in Anzac Day events in Scone.

Today he will assemble with other veterans at 10.45am for the march. These days, at 93, he and some other veterans will be on gophers.

“Afterwards we’ll adjourn to the club where the RSL have lunch for us,” he said.

Mr Brideoake said Anzac Day had not changed much except for the greater presence of children.

“It’s good to see all the littlies,” he said.

If you see Mr Brideoake and his mates on their gophers today, give them a wave and a big cheer, for this is their day.

Portrait of a POW

Allan Brideoake enlisted aged 20 in 1940, a member of the 2/19th (Riverina) Battalion which he said suffered more casualties than any that left Australia in WWll.

In January 1941 he sailed on the Queen Mary 1 to Asia.

February 15, 1942 he was captured in the fall of Singapore fighting on the mainland of Malaya.

He was held in Changi and then worked on the Burma Thailand Railway for two years,

Shipped to Japan on the ship Byoke Maru and worked in coal mines three miles under the sea.

He was in a POW camp near the Japanese city of Nagasaki when two atomic bombs were dropped in 1945, ending the war.

After three and a half years as a prisoner of war he and his mates were released to return home. The plane wheel didn’t come down as they circled above Australia, he was put in quarantine and his medical records and pay books were misplaced.

He was glad to be home.