Chapter 1 1840
Chapter 7 1841
Chapter 12 1843
Chapter 14 1844
Chapter 15 1845
Chapter 16 1849
Chapter 19 1851
Chapter 20 1853
Chapter 21 1856
Chapter 22 1857
Chapter 23 1859
Chapter 24 1862
Chapter 25 1863
Chapter 26 1864
Chapter 27 1866
Chapter 28 1869
Chapter 29 1871
Chapter 30 1872
Chapter 31 1874-1880
Chapter 32 1880-1896
These pages were written by Dorothy Kinny, great great gran-daughter of Magdalen and William Yabsley.
If the new baby followed the girl-boy sequence, it should be a girl, and so it was and named Elizabeth for William's sister. Magdalen had plenty of help during the confinement and the weather was not too hot, so she was able to relax with only the baby to attend to. Eliza tied a pink ribbon on the door, and Jane took over the household duties with Black Mary to help in the house and other trusted natives to work in the garden.
Magdalen was reluctant even to ask about the domestic situation, she felt so incapable of doing anything but sleep, feed the baby and do a little sewing. How had she managed when Harry and Annie were born at the Heads with practically no help? Of course she had been younger then, and they also had fewer children and fewer responsibilities. She knew she couldn't do it now.
After a week confined to her room, she took her sewing out to the verandah and looked over the grass to the shipyard where William and Billy and two Blacks were working. She felt like a lady, sitting in the sun and sewing, although she knew she didn't look or sound like a lady. Charley toddled out from the kitchen where he had been playing with the pots and pans.
"Where's baby?" he asked quite concerned that his mother had deserted her offspring.
"She's asleep in the cradle," Magdalen reassured him, taking the toddler onto her lap, and playing 'This is the way the ladies ride'.
Sometimes she felt she was almost a stranger to the children, especially to Harry who was still highly accident-prone. She believed that was the way he was born and nothing could change his nature, but the thought nagged that he might have been different if she had had more time for him as a baby. He did seem worse when she was not in command as he needed so much patience and firm guidance. Yesterday Jane complained that he had broken a plate, not looking what he was doing. Eliza spent ages trying to find the hammer which their father had sent Harry for, and which he had put down when distracted by something else. They were all a bit impatient with him and Magdalen wondered if it did not make him worse when they all cautioned him to be careful and think what he was doing. Fortunately his broken arm had healed normally.
Ah well. What could she do? She played 'Pat-a-cake' with Charley until Little Magdalen came and wanted to sit on her lap too. Then Eliza took them both away, and their mother went on with her sewing until it was time to feed the baby.
At Eliza's insistence, William contrived some things for the kitchen which John had seen in England or Sydney; a pump for water and pipes to carry away the dirty water into a covered drain, a sink, plate rack and a complete dresser for the dishes. Magdalen was kept out of the kitchen until everything was finished, when she was escorted by all the children to make her inspection.
"I think it must be as beautiful as the Queen's kitchen," she told her family.
Every time the 'Pelican' came in, there were new items for the store, as well as normal supplies. Magdalen could select anything she fancied as long as she wrote it in the book. There was no longer a need to improvise and do without. They had lace curtains at the windows, china instead of tin plates and pannikins, hair clasps, store candles and soap, bedding, soft underclothing, sharp knives, scissors, pillows. Magdalen ordered some shrubs and fruit trees, although she realised she would have trouble keeping the bullocks away from them. The area which John had mowed for the cricket match, was prepared for the garden, the grass kept cut, and beds dug. To sit on the verandah and look out over the lawn and garden to the 'Pelican' at anchor in the river, was a dream quickly coming true.
There had been a few changes of captain and crew in the three years. Every time the vessel crossed in or out over the bar there was some anxiety, as many ships were lost, or bar-bound for weeks until it was safe to cross. Being a very small vessel the 'Pelican' had less trouble than other ships and brought her cargo up to Coraki at fairly regular intervals, whereas at times other depots were waiting for supplies of necessities.
Sometimes the people were short of flour and had to use corn which they despised.
A travelling hawker came to the river bringing buttons, cloth, needles and scissors. First he showed necessary items such as working clothes, then pretty materials and trimmings and finally sweets. If he were successful he planned to get a wagon built so that both sides and the back could be let down as display counters.
"Let me know when you're ready and I'll design and build it for you," said William as he paid for the numerous articles which his family had bought. Magdalen could not resist buying some things for Jane to help make life easier for her. Although William had given his son-in-law several opportunities to improve his situation, he had not taken up the offer. In fact he rather spurned William's suggestions and Magdalen's gifts. However he did enjoy the regatta which John organised for all the settlers. Everybody who could row was eligible to compete. They rowed around two boats moored in the river, while the spectators sat on the high banks to cheer on their friends or relatives. As John was the only one with a coloured shirt, it was used as a regatta colour, and the other members of the Yabsley family wore some item which approximated the bright straw-berry pink. The ladies had a shorter course, although some of them were more capable than some of the menfolk when it was necessary. Fred was elated to win his event, but would not allow Jane to compete, saying it was unladylike.
* * *
It was three years since the 'Pelican' had been launched at Bullinah and William had so proudly sailed her to Port Macquarie on her first voyage. She now sailed regularly to Sydney and other ports with a crew of four. It was hard to remember what it was like before that time and even harder to explain to the children that things had not always been easy for them. Eliza now eleven and Billy at nine could remember the early days at Bullinah but were inclined to take the change in their circumstances for granted. Jane could even remember back to the Settlement days, but she had not benefitted much from the change in the family fortunes being now Fred's responsibility.
In early July the 'Pelican' set sail for Sydney with a cargo of cedar and orders for a still greater variety of stock for the store and trees for the garden and items for the house. After a few days she crossed out safely over the bar and word came up to Coraki by river shipping that she was on her way. When they heard of a safe crossing William and Magdalen always breathed a sigh of relief. They watched the weather and looked at signs such as the flight of birds, the plentifulness or scarcity of fish to see if a change was coming. The bad tropical cyclones were usually over by this time of the year.
A fortnight later Captain Williams returned on another ship and asked to speak to William alone. Usually full of witticisms, this time he stood tensely in the doorway. He opened his mouth but no sound came out. The anguished look on his face told them what his voice would not.
"No need to tell me. Something's happened to her hasn't it?" William said before Magdalen and the children could leave the room.
"A fierce gale blew her ashore near Port Stephens and she became a total wreck. The crew and I all managed to get ashore. In the mornin' we counted twenty-three vessels which 'ad been blown ashore that night. I've never experienced anything like it."
"Thank God you are all safe," said Magdalen at last. "Was there much other loss of life?"
"The four of us was the only souls saved out of all the wrecks. The 'Pelican' was a mighty little ship. We lay on the beach to recover from the ordeal and tried to think what to do. A stockman from a station nearby came along to see if any vessels 'ad been blown ashore. On findin' what 'ad happened he made off for a spade. He and the four of us buried all the seamen we could find. And there was one vessel, a large one loaded with tallow from Brisbane 'ad two young women on board who were both drowned in their bunks. The stockman 'ad a team of bullocks an' he hauled all your cedar to Port Stephens so that it could be shipped to Sydney. I done me best."
"Quite so. Quite so," was all William could say.
Magdalen hurried to make some tea for the captain, her mind too numbed to think clearly. She turned to a routine activity. William left the room and went out to the shipyard in the dark unable to believe the news but also unable to reject it. The expression on the captain's face when he arrived was as good as proof of the loss. He assured them that the 'Pelican' was the most sturdy ship he had ever sailed in, and the fact that her crew and cargo had been saved supported that. All William's years of hard work, all those hours at the Heads while Magdalen held the fat lamp. All William's dreams now a wreck. Their beloved little 'Pelican'.
* * *
William applied himself more vigorously to his other tasks, worked longer hours, pushed himself a little harder. He calculated how he could maintain the store by economising here and there, trading with the most reliable captains he knew for staple goods. He could no longer employ anyone full-time and suggested that Fred do some cedar-getting. However Fred decided to go to the Diggings. There was a fierce argument and in a temper, he hit Jane and for a moment looked as if he wanted to hit Mary, asleep in her basket. Stunned and ashamed, Jane could not hide her black eye. William was moved to tell Fred as he was leaving that he did not like the way that Jane and Mary were treated. There was nothing Magdalen could do. She felt helpless and sick at heart.
When acquaintances said how sorry they were to hear of the loss of the 'Pelican', William assured them that he accepted it as part of life, that he was glad that no-one on the 'Pelican' had drowned, she had served him well for three good years and he was proud of her.
"It happens all the time. We were lucky not to lose the crew and the cedar."
And people thought he was being philosophical. Only Magdalen saw the bitter disappointment and she felt completely inadequate. The 'Pelican' had been his. He had endured personal hardships and worked long hours to produce her, like a woman bearing a child. The 'Pelican' also represented his march forward. The cattle, the store, the repair-yard were only a means of keeping food in their mouths and clothes on their backs. There was no attachment to these things. Now the 'Pelican' was gone and he found it very hard to accept the set-back. No matter how little progress he made, so long as he could see some improvement in their lives, a small step toward his goal, he was content.
With the loss of his ship he found he could not sleep no matter how tired he was. Or if he fell asleep he woke with a start. Sometimes he got up a three a.m. to go over his books before beginning his day's work. He worked late into the evening, seldom helping with the children's lessons. His purpose in life was to progress and this progress had depended on the 'Pelican' which provided the income with which he hoped one day to buy the land, as well as provide material comforts for his family including books to educate them so that they would have a better chance to improve themselves.
All this was now gone.
Fred had also gone. Eliza was sent to sleep in Jane's hut to keep her company while Fred was away. Jane felt unsettled without Fred but also much more free to do what she felt was right. Jane was very serious about the care of her child, now nearly a year old, and was inclined to have very high expectations. Mary was compliant and quick to learn. She had plenty of company as she spent a lot of time with her young aunts and uncles. Charley was now nearly two, and Mary imitated him in many things even calling William 'Papa' which amused the other children but would have upset Fred if he had heard it.
The hours William put into work were beginning to take their toll without gaining anything. Magdalen sent notes to Henry Barnes and William Clement, written out neatly by Jane to say that William needed his friends. William Clement now a clerk for a shipping agent, came to talk business, and Henry came on Saturday ostensibly to discuss a general muster of cattle.
Without fences cattle roamed where they would. As William had thought of the run as only a side-line, he had put little effort into keeping track of his stock. In three years his herds had increased considerably in number.
"You need a horse first of all," said Henry. "If you think you can't learn to ride, then get one suitable for young Billy, and one of your black stockmen."
"Jacky would be delighted with a horse," said Magdalen. "I can see him galloping after the cattle. What a good idea William, not to have to walk miles after your bullocks when they wander off. It would save so much time."
"Mm. Maybe you're right. Can't see myself on a horse at my age though," he said to Henry. "Could you recommend me a couple, not too dear?"
"We'll go this afternoon and select some. The expense will be repaid I assure you, in efficiency. Some stockmen are quite proud of how quickly their herds increase. Even respectable squatters have liberal ideas about branding straying cattle, especially cleanskins."
* * *
The two men rowed to a neighbouring run and selected a young chestnut and a filly, called Charlie and Paleface, which were to be delivered the next day in return for credit at the store. When the children heard the horse's name, they called him 'Charlie Horse' to distinguish him from their brother. Henry sent word to the neighbouring runs that a general muster would be held in two weeks on Mr Yabsley's run. He gave William details of the necessary preparations and promised he would be present.
"I expect Fred will be back by then to give us a hand. He told us he could ride well. Although we've come not to rely too much on what he says."
To many of the stockmen this was the most exciting event of the year. They gathered from far and near. Cattle roamed great distances, but many stockmen came to take part without expecting to find any cattle from their runs, even some from across the river. They organised athletic contests among themselves, told yarns around the camp-fire while the squatters planned the muster, drawing maps of the area in the dust.
The men rolled in their blankets at ten o'clock, using their saddles for pillows, ready for a start at daybreak. William went to bed without thoughts of the 'Pelican' in his head for the first time for weeks.
He was up before dawn when the Black boys were sent to bring in the hobbled horses. Fred had not returned, so Billy and his friend Mundoon saddled up Paleface and rode with the rest, more as a token than with any intention of serious drafting. Spot followed, not to be left out of the excitement. Jacky had ridden before on neighbouring runs and was in the thick of the activity on his mount Charlie. With great skill the stockmen cut out their masters' cattle, drafted them into groups, until only the cleanskins and strays were left. These were then divided in as fair a manner as possible, and each squatter headed off toward his station. Once they had dispersed, William, Jacky, Billy and Mundoon counted their stock as they were drafted through the gate of the stock-yard, roped, thrown, branded with a WY, and sent off to begin straggling afresh. It was noisy dusty work and William was glad when it was over. He came home exhausted but stimulated, with a new outlook and a determination to build another ship as soon as possible. Plans were already taking shape in his mind. His next ship would be bigger and better.
In the meantime he started to plant corn to feed the horses and as a supplement to their own diet. Many people turned up their noses at maize because it had been fed to convicts, and was used in the staple diet of the labouring classes who mixed maizemeal with flour to make damper. In times of flour shortage they had all been obliged to use maize, putting it in a bag and breaking it with a hammer. To William, growing corn was an activity which was necessary for the proper feeding of his latest acquisition. The horses had performed very well at the muster, and Billy was showing great potential as a rider. Not to be completely outdone by his nine-year-old son, William rode short distances on Paleface, the quiet little filly.
"I thought Fred would be back by now," said William now looking for help with sowing the corn.
Jane suddenly became upset and left the room hurriedly. When Fred had set out, she had expected that he would be back soon to take her and Mary and this had seemed like an adventure. She hoped the separation would change his attitude. William and Magdalen had thought he would soon get tired of the harsh life on the Diggings, and would return to home comforts, wiser and more appreciative. It was now three weeks and they had heard no word.
The only news they had from the outside world, was a letter from Isabella Elliot telling of the death of her husband, Gilbert on 20th August at his Sydney home at 'Holmwood' Newtown, leaving his little daughter fatherless.
"Jane you must write to her and tell her how sorry we are to hear the news. She doesn't say what he died of. He must've been about thirty-four. It's a shame he didn't get around to bringing his wife and child to meet us, as he said he would when he was at Armidale. We can't invite her now in our present financial state."
Jane wrote a letter of condolence to the widow, and within a month a parcel arrived containing an ornamented sword-stick holder which had come originally from India from his grandfather the Governor General of Bengal, which Gilbert had used on ceremonial occasions while employed by Governor Gipps, and a gold watch inscribed with the Minto crest and other mementoes, which they treasured.
Every day Jane looked for news of Fred but she heard nothing. She and little Mary became more and more a part of their parents' household joining in almost all the activities. Mary insisted on calling William 'Papa' as Charles did. Jane was again dependent on her father.
As there was little sale for cattle at the time, the station owners used to boil down excess stock for tallow. There were three boiling down works, the nearest at Pelican Tree, and one at Woran and one at Tomki. The tallow was sent in casks to Sydney and some was exported. Boiling down had been going on all the winter, the refuse had been fed to the pigs and the pigs were boiled down last. Reluctantly William sent some of his older cattle to be boiled down at Pelican Tree as there was no market for live stock.
A man named Thomas Broker had some cedar cut at the back of Moonembah which he wanted hauled to Swan Bay. As William did not have enough bullocks at the time to haul it in, he arranged with a man who owned two young bullocks to let him have them. They were lent on the condition that they would be returned when the work was finished. There was quite a lot of timber to haul, and in the meantime, the owner of the bullocks moved to Grafton.
"If Fred was back he could take them to Grafton to save me the time. There's a ship-repair I could do if I didn't have to take the bullocks," William grumbled.
When the work was done William yoked the bullocks together and started for Grafton on foot He followed Bungawalbyn Creek where he saw the wheel tracks of the bullock drays which carried rations to the stations. These he followed as best he could as the bullocks gave him great trouble, with no load to pull, trying to join the bush cattle. He pushed on all night, and toward morning he saw a light ahead. Not knowing whether it belonged to a Blacks' campfire or not, he approached cautiously, and found it belonged to a teamster, so William had something to eat and rested until daybreak. Then he drove the bullocks on and delivered them to their owner. And back to Coraki the same way. So much quicker than their first journey to the Richmond River.
A little later a stockman came down from 'Roseberry' station and said the manager wanted a stockyard built, so William went to see if he could get the job. He pulled a boat to Casino, then on to 'Roseberry'. When they reached the station there was no-one there except the cook who knew nothing about it. Disappointed, William returned to Coraki and began training more bullocks for his team, and waited until the next ship-repair came in. There was not too long to wait. A young captain of a coastal vessel called at the shipyard for a minor repair. By his strong fresh Scottish accent, he was obviously a new-corner to the Colony.
"My name is William Kinny," he said when he had located the owner.
"Good day to you sir. William Yabsley."
"Glad to meet you. I hear you do repairs of all sorts?"
"That's so. Let me see what you need."
The two men examined the damage and William began to make a note of what he would require. He suggested that Captain Kinny make himself known to Magdalen. He felt an immediate attraction to the younger man and wanted to get to know him better. From the house Magdalen heard Spot barking and saw the visitor walking across the lawn, his bright red hair making him easily distinguished as a stranger to her. He introduced himself.
"Glad to meet you Captain Kinny. Welcome to our home. Can we offer you hospitality while your ship is being repaired?"
"That's very kind of you. I'd be glad to accept. I've not long arrived from Scotland."
"There are a lot of Scottish immigrants in this district, a lot brought in by Dr Dunmore Lang. Where are you from?"
"From Dumfries, southern Scotland, south of Glasgow."
"I'm afraid I'm not much good at accents. I couldn't pick yours at all though I know a number of Highland settlers."
"I lived mostly on the Clyde. I came from a ship-building family." As Billy came in they were introduced.
"Captain Kinny this is William junior, our eldest son."
"Another William eh? I'm William too."
"They call me Billy so as not to get mixed up. I would rather be called Bill."
"Well Bill, I saw the first iron ship launched in the Clyde River in Scotland, in 1845 when I was seventeen."
"An iron ship?" asked Bill. "Wouldn't it sink?"
"That's what everyone thought who came to look, but in fact she sat so high in the water that she couldn't be steered properly."
"Iron won't float," protested Bill.
"If it's the shape of a ship it will m'lad. Are you going to be a ship-builder when you grow up?"
"No. I'd rather be a merchant or a jockey."
Jane appeared wearing an apron, and was embarrassed to find a visitor talking to her mother.
"Here is my daughter Jane. This is Captain Kinny from Scotland. Jane was born in England. All the others were born here. Jane was six when we arrived in Sydney thirteen years ago."
"How do you do," said Jane. "Welcome Captain Kinny." As usual she was tongue-tied with strangers. Never very talkative she had little opportunity for social contacts. She hurried away to the kitchen to make some refreshments.
"Eliza come and set the table. We have company," she called.
"Yes. Yes I know," said Eliza. "Who is he?"
"He's a ship's captain in the coastal trade, and seems very nice," said Magdalen who had come to help. "Annie, see if your father wants some tea."
The children were all taken with the easy friendliness of the visitor. They sat at the table in order of age, except Mary who sat by Jane, and Elizabeth who sat on Jane's knee, as Magdalen's next baby was due within a few months. They were introduced in order of age, and Captain Kinny noticed the boy-girl sequence, as he took his cup of tea.
"The next one should be another boy," said Magdalen.
"How extraordinary. Very well-behaved and orderly children."
"Mr Yabsley likes quietness," explained Magdalen. "He can't abide rowdy children and won't stand any nonsense. He likes them to be brought up to be useful. Even young Billy, I mean Bill, who's ten has to be up at dawn to start work. He has a lot of responsibility for his age."
"When I was a boy lots of children much younger worked in the mines," reminisced Captain Kinny. "The bad old days."
"At least he's working in fresh air," admitted Magdalen. "There are Blacks to do any heavy work if they can be persuaded. We have school in the evening. Jane and I supervise with Mr Yabsley's help when he has time. Jane does most of it. She was lucky enough to have some proper schooling when we first arrived from England."
William came into the room and took a place. William looking at his eldest son said "I want to make a man of him. Children these days don't know what hard work is. They have it easy. Look at us with a fine house and plenty to eat and time for the children to study. When I was a boy we were often cold and hungry and children worked ten hours a day. Not that I agree with children working in mines or anything beyond their strength."
"You have certainly a well-organised household," observed William Kinny, changing the subject. "And I'm amazed how you managed the boy-girl sequence."
Magdalen laughed. "That was my doing. That side is left to me. And what are your plans Mr Kinny?"
"I'll follow the sea for a while. I like the freedom. I'll probably settle in New South Wales when I'm ready. That won't be for a while. When I'm finished with the sea I'll have enough money to buy a plot of land and get married."
"You're not married then?" asked Magdalen.
He laughed as if the idea were preposterous.
"I don't meet many young ladies in my calling. Time enough for that later."
"All the girls here marry very young," said Magdalen.
"We have just heard that the man who was the Commissioner when we lived at Grafton, the Settlement it was then, has married a girl hardly fifteen and not at all acting her age. She was the daughter of William and Jane Wilson who used to live near us at the Heads. They built a raft and floated up to Lismore with their cow and young family. It took nearly two months floating with the tide."
"How old is the bridegroom?" asked Mr Kinny who was genuinely interested in people.
"How old was Oliver Fry?" Magdalen asked William, then went on "Let me see. He was twenty-three or so when he arrived at the Settlement when Eliza was a baby, about '41. She's twelve now. That would make him about thirty-five."
William changed the subject, feeling that their guest could not possibly be interested in local anecdotes.
"I expect Captain Kinny would like to see our bit of land, our cattle and the shipyard. Eliza and Bill can show you if you like."
Jane cleared up the tea things with eight-year old Annie to help.
As Bill, Eliza and Captain Kinny accompanied by Spot walked along toward the dairy and store, Bill asked "Do you play cricket Mr Kinny? My Uncle John has persuaded some of the men to form a cricket team. He teaches us boys, even Harry who's only five. Uncle John comes every weekend from Bullinah. He also organises the Regatta."
"I have played a little cricket. It's becoming very popular in Britain, but I hardly expected to find such enthusiasm for the game in the Colony, let alone in a little settlement like Coraki."
Later he talked to William about his surprise at there being a local cricket team.
"There is a game here tomorrow," said William. "You might care to watch or fill a place yourself. As you can imagine the young people are entirely dependent on their own resources for amusement."
Magdalen added "When John Yabsley arrived two years ago we had a big picnic day and it looks like becoming an annual event. The standard of cricket has improved a lot since that first match. You should have seen some of them. It was most amusing. John nearly tore his hair out."
"And I broke my arm," put in Harry.
* * *
The following day at the cricket match after William Kinny had shown himself as a competent batsman, some of the men were discussing the merits of their horses and decided to hold a race meeting to settle the arguments. William arranged for an area to be cleared and he chose a tree which he felled and helped to erect for the winning post.
"The prickly tea tree post will be still good when we're all dead and buried." He often drew attention to the great durability of tea tree.
Within a month the races were held and the champion horse of the district was Charlie Horse ridden by Bill. The family was so proud of him, and his father was well satisfied that Henry Barnes had made a good choice on his behalf.
"He's certainly the best judge of anything on four legs," William said to John as they watched.
"Have you heard what the new minister has called his horses?" asked Magdalen.
"I didn't know we had a new minister. I didn't even know the old one, let alone his horses," laughed John.
"Well the Reverend Coles Child has been replaced by a squatter from the Tableland, called Selwyn, whose horses are Clarence and Richmond. He has moved to Grafton since he took up the ministry and they say he's very popular. There'll be some christening for him to do when he visits us," said Magdalen who was in the last weeks of her twelfth pregnancy, of which eight children had survived.
"Well whoever he is and whatever his horses' names I don't have any work for him," said John. "But if he likes we can see if he can match our champion 'Charlie' ridden by ten-year old Bill Yabsley."