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.
While loading and unloading his ship, William Kinny spent as much time as possible at Coraki. Jane lived for these few days and longed for the time when they could marry. Mary had really taken to the quiet but friendly man. She was six years old, the same age that Jane had been when she and Magdalen had arrived in Sydney and they had gone to Stonequarry, now called Picton, to stay with Uncle William and Aunt Ann Sawyer. Jane thought about her life at Stonequarry in a small cottage with a big family, after three years of living alone with her mother in Plymouth, and how she had found the children and her uncle a little overwhelming at first. For Mary there would be a different adjustment, as she was used to a big family and to her grandfather as the head of the house and would now have a small household and a new father.
Eliza also had a suitor, John Robinson of the 'Elbow'. He was the son of George Robinson who had come with his family from Grimsby, Lincolnshire on the 'Royal Saxon' with sixty-one immigrants for the Richmond River. John was a regular caller and took part in the cricket and other activities organised at Coraki. It was accepted that Eliza would marry soon because she was lively, full of high spirits which should be directed into domestic pursuits. John had good prospects and William and Magdalen felt happy that their irrepressible daughter should settle down and use her energy more appropriately.
They were not so happy about Bill who had been spending a lot of time since he was fourteen visiting a family at Blackwall. William knew Henry Cook as a sawyer who came to New South Wales in 1831, who had married Jane Manley eight years later. Their eldest daughter Frances was the same age as Bill and it seemed reasonable to suppose that it was with her that his interest lay. Every Saturday whatever the weather when he finished work at six o'clock, he started from Coraki by pulling boat and returned in time for work on Monday morning. Feeling that his parents' expectations of him were so high that he could never live up to them, he had become rather uncommunicative to his parents. Whatever he did his father always had additional instructions and comments, intended to improve his son's skill and knowledge, but which had the effect of making him feel inadequate. Nothing he ever did was good enough. William was a perfectionist and took it for granted that young Bill would want to be the same. Bill had learned that mistakes left him open to criticism, and so he learned not to be too enterprising, not to try new things, but simply to carry out instructions as carefully as he could, if without enthusiasm. At Mr Cook's place however he was the centre of attention, and was regarded as rather clever, the eldest son of a very well-thought of family. The Cooks were flattered to have him visit and were delighted at the prospect that one day the young couple should marry.
William and Magdalen did not entirely approve. They found it difficult to talk to him; his answers were vague, there was a degree of mistrust. Bill denied that he was calling on a young lady, and they found they had to leave it at that, as they really could not prevent him going without giving offence to Mr and Mrs Cook. William preferred to believe that he was not particularly interested in Frances but Magdalen knew better. She just hoped that Bill would grow out of a childish infatuation, but time went by and he did not. Now at sixteen he was taller than his father, Frances, a pretty dainty person with a sweet personality, looked up to him and thought him most attractive. They both loved horses and riding.
"I've got nothing against her," Magdalen assured William. "And there's no harm in the friendship so long as it doesn't get too serious. It's a pity there is such a shortage of girls on the river. They all tend to marry so young. Think of that poor young girl who married Oliver Fry when she was only fifteen." She did not mention Jane who had been married when only a little older than Theresa Wilson, but who had seemed so much more mature.
William changed the subject to talk about Oliver Fry, who had been the Commissioner for many years. In Grafton recently he had presided at a public meeting where resolutions were carried condemning his former friend Charles Walker, for a sentence passed by him as an honorary magistrate. Mr Fry advertised the results in the Sydney Morning Herald. But leading residents of the Clarence District, including people who had up until then been intimates of Fry, signed a testimonial to Walker, expressing disapproval at the malice of those who had got up the meeting.
"Mr Fry should know what it's like trying to settle disputes and how difficult it is to be quite fair to everyone. A Commissioner or Magistrate can only do his best as he sees it, and shouldn't be condemned so long as he does his best. He wouldn't have liked it if his decisions had been questioned, but of course as Commissioner, he had all the say and his decisions were final."
Magdalen agreed. "He was so popular when he first arrived at the Settlement back in '42, he was such a dashing figure. But they were soon disillusioned, especially those who thought he would bring law and order. I heard his poor little wife had a very complicated childbirth and her son died soon after her. Now Mr Fry must be a very lonely and discredited man."
The new Police Magistrate came to the Richmond River no more frequently than had Oliver Fry. There was now a Court House at Casino where all land transactions had to be registered and the local magistrate's main task was to calculate and collect revenue due. Civil marriages could be performed there when no minister was available. Many people were sceptical about the validity of the marriages, but it was certainly better than previous informal arrangements. Mr Selwyn the Anglican minister came twice a year to the Richmond.
"We must find out when next he plans to come north," said Magdalen. "Eliza wants to be married then. Also Jane if the formalities are through to annul her marriage."
"Eliza is at me to make a flag pole before her wedding."
"Then we must have a flag brought up on the 'Coraki'."
At the next elections Clark Irving was opposed by Edward Ryan and Alexander Mackellar. The district was buzzing with talk about the candidates.
Edward Ryan was an Irish Catholic, at one time the manager of 'Waterview' at the Settlement where Magdalen and William had first met him. He had married the daughter of Francis Girard, his employer, the original owner of the run. He had been able to buy valuable land at Grafton when 'Waterview' was surveyed, and had later aided in building the first Catholic Church.
Alex Mackeller, the manager of 'Runnymede' station was a big handsome flamboyant man with a clipped moustache, perhaps a little masterful and overbearing. Keenly interested in local affairs he was the captain of the Richmond River cricket team, and a promoter of the race meetings. He had arrived on the river in the early 40's and in the early days he used to compete in strenuous calf-throwing matches with Henry Barnes, usually before breakfast at branding time. The dogged endurance of the smaller Cumberland wrestler generally bested the Scot.
Clark Irving was English, a short quietly-spoken man, not as colourful or impressive as Mackellar, but well regarded because of what he had already done and tried to do for the district. At 'Tomki' he had built the Durham Ox Hotel which was used by the community as a meeting place, accommodation house and post office, and when the property was surveyed he was not even able to buy it. On one occasion when he was at Grafton, he invited the public to a free excursion on the paddle-steamer 'Grafton' followed by a ball which went on until four am. He had started a weekly newspaper called the Clarence and Richmond Examiner in a two-roomed cottage in Grafton, and brought the news of the local district and the outside world to the settlers, the papers going by boat, horse or bullock team. He used the paper to express his determination to improve the harbours, to remove impediments to navigation from the rivers, to enable men to buy land of their own. In order to provide a reliable shipping service within the limits of the weather and bars, he floated a company in January 1857 called the Grafton Steam Navigation Company, with a paddle-wheel steamer 'William IV' or 'Old Billy'.
The contest for the election was regarded as a contest of the shamrock, the thistle and the rose. The question of the southern boundary of the new colony had been disputed until finally it had been fixed at Point Danger, and Queensland was formed. Dr Lang and many squatters felt that the rivers should logically be part of the new colony and blamed Clark Irving for his anti-Separationist policies. But in the election Clark Irving (rose) had 288 votes Mackellar (thistle) 152 and Ryan (shamrock) 121.
Casino was now a lively township since land was available by auction in the village reserves. There were no streets but blocks were pegged out and people had put up slab huts. Land had sold quickly because the working class men were eager to build homes on their own freehold land. Mail came from Grafton once a week on horseback. Grafton was directly connected by a weekly steamer with Sydney for mail and newspapers, and there was also the local paper. Many people could not read so did not take a newspaper but William was among those who were eager to take advantage of the opportunity. Every week one of the boys was sent to Casino for mail and papers. Charley who was nine was mostly more reliable than Harry at twelve, so he often had that job, and enjoyed the freedom and responsibility.
* * *
In July Eliza and John Robinson were married at Coraki. Eliza was eighteen, John was twenty-five. Magdalen, Jane and Eliza had spent many hours sewing her trousseau and wedding dress and bonnet. Frances who was her witness made her own outfit in pale pink satin. For days before the wedding they made plans and prepared many delicacies for the wedding feast, Eliza was blissfully happy making detailed plans for the big day, and giving no thought to the day after. From the wedding day it would be John's responsibility to make decisions, and her duty to comply. Her task would be to keep a clean and comfortable cottage and care for the children when they came. Full of light-hearted optimism, she saw no problems, and most people believed that for women like Eliza, life was charmed.
All their friends were at the wedding including Henry Barnes and his wife Grace and their two daughters Sara and Agnes.
"Another dear little daughter. What a beautiful baby she is. But I don't envy you," said Magdalen, looking at Tommy now aged six. "I'm pleased we have completed our family."
"And what of Jane's plans?" asked Henry.
"She's still waiting for official word so that they can get married. They'll have only a very quiet wedding. Just old friends like you. No fuss."
"I hope all my other daughters won't want all this," laughed William who had been persuaded by Eliza to buy a new suit for the occasion.
"Don't have too many daughters," Magdalen advised their visitors.
"We'll order a son next," laughed Henry.
Henry was prospering financially and had established a wide-spread reputation as a cattle-breeder. His main worry was that he would not be able to buy his land before it was divided up for settlement. The landholders were all trying to buy up land and protect their investments. When the various districts were surveyed they often found that proposed streets ran through their houses, whether they had built substantial homes or had lived for twenty years in bark and slab huts. The workers were crying out for land of their own, and the whole district was gradually being surveyed for this purpose, but in fairness it had to be acknowledged that the squatters had opened up the country, had improved the properties, employing large numbers of workers, and were instrumental in the development of the few roads, seaports, riverports and other amenities.
"I'm glad I'm not in a position of having to make decisions like that," said William. "It's impossible to do justice to everyone. Governor Gipps knew what was going to come and tried to sort it out before the problem grew so large, but he was hampered by the Colonial Office. Governor Fitzroy did nothing. Eventually the government will be forced by some defiant groups to do something."
"Yes," agreed Henry. "I'm glad it's Mr Irving and not me trying to sort it out. But I do feel annoyed when people come up here and then start complaining about the lack of facilities. They don't know what pioneering really is. They should see how it was for us. I had only 10/- in my pocket when I arrived. In our time men really had to battle with nature and those of us who succeeded felt great satisfaction. We didn't walk into ready-made townships. Actually there was no-one for us to complain to in the Outback."
"I've heard that some settlers want a steam-mill, not being content to build houses out of pit-sawn timber, certainly not the bark huts and slab huts which served us."
Magdalen added. "I sometimes long for the old days when life went on regularly, with everything to look forward to."
"A man can be so unlucky when the surveyor decides to lay out a Wage in his front garden," said William. "If Free Selection comes in at least I have some sons to help me keep my run. The ship-building is more important to me but I'm beginning to see that the boys don't share that feeling. Bill would rather be riding horses."
"You're lucky to have William Kinny to depend on. He almost seems like part of the family already."
"Yes. I depend on him a lot. Well here comes the Reverend Selwyn now. Eliza will soon be off my hands and we can get back to a normal life."
* * *
A little while later Fred West arrived at Coraki having heard that Jane was hoping to have their marriage annulled. This made him furious although from what he said he had not been leading a celibate life himself. He made further threats to Jane and refused to leave until Jane and Mary came with him. William Kinny was preparing to sail the 'Coraki' to Sydney leaving on the next tide. On an impulse Jane hastily threw a few clothes into a basket having decided to go with him.
Her father also decided to sail with them. Jane and Mary went quietly aboard and stayed below decks until it was sailing time. Just as they were leaving, Fred appeared and tried to rush on board, but his father-in-law fended him off with a boat hook and the crew cast off. Fuming, Fred returned to Rocky Mouth and was on the next ship sailing for Sydney.
During the voyage William Kinny decided to give up the sea. Jane would never have asked him to give up his career as he had never known anything else and at thirty-one to take up a new life was difficult. The relief she felt when he made his announcement brought tears to her eyes. There were always problems with the bar and many vessels were lost. The waiting for the return of the 'Coraki' was dreadful but nobody complained because it was their way of life. There was also the fear that Fred would return and make further demands.
"What will you do?" asked Jane. "It won't be easy."
"We'll get to Sydney and see about the annulment of your marriage. And I'll enquire about taking up farming. I've always planned to take up land eventually. Let's stay in Sydney for a while to sort things out and keep out of Fred's way."
Jane, William and Mary found a boarding house in Sydney where they stayed for two weeks. Jane's marriage could not be annulled and Jane decided to go with William and be his wife in deed if not in law. They went to the Macleay River near Kempsey. Jane wrote to her mother "I feel more married than I ever was to Fred." Mary was used to being surrounded by a large family and a lot of activity and took a while to settle down to a quiet life with her mother and new father. Later they heard that Fred had gone to Sydney and eventually found the boarding house where they had stayed. The land-lady told him that they had gone home that morning. He presumed that she meant to England as a ship had sailed that morning. Still bearing a grudge, he decided to follow them even as far as England and sailed on the next ship.
* * *
Almost immediately after her marriage Eliza, not too joyfully realised that she was pregnant; not that she did not accept the woman's role of child-bearing, but she did think she might have had a little while to be a bride before she had the restrictions of motherhood. Magdalen kept to herself the feeling of joy that this time it was not her in the family way.
Eliza was a little apprehensive about the approaching birth. Although Magdalen had given birth twelve times she knew very little about the details. It was not considered proper for women to know. It would worry them, especially the things which could go wrong. Only the mid-wife needed that knowledge. The mother-to-be looked for signs of the coming birth, sent for the mid-wife and put herself into her competent hands. Three of Magdalen's babies had been born without the aid of an experienced mid-wife, but these births had been quick and easy compared with first or second babies.
"At least you won't be alone in a bark hut," Magdalen told Eliza. You'll have every possible comfort and if it seems unendurable at the time, remember that women were made for the purpose and when you hold your baby the pain will be forgotten."
Eliza was not so sure. She had heard whispered dreadful stories about women unable to give birth and dying in the attempt. She wished that it was all over and that she was slim again and felt well and could go out into society with her child, both dressed in their best. She made pretty baby clothes and appeared to be resigned.
* * *
Mr Irving had been pressing for improvements to roadbridges and other amenities. He had even asked the Government for an account of receipts and expenditure in the Clarence River District and said they needed a courthouse, telegraph, more men at the pilot station and so on.
The government contract to build two bridges over a swamp between Tintenbar and Ballina was given to William, who took Bill and Harry and some men to Tintenbar in the 'Quicksilver' and built the bridges with his usual thoroughness. On their return they found that the family was curious to know how the bridge-building had gone as it was new to them.
"What is a bridge?" young Tommy wanted to know. Few people had ever seen a bridge except for logs or planks laid across small creeks, and this was clearly not what his father had been building. Harry drew him a sketch and demonstrated with pieces of firewood, to show what they had been doing. While they had been away Magdalen had been in charge of the store and had enjoyed the variety. She had to give an account of her transactions during their absence.
The year passed slowly. Prosperity returned to Coraki with the regular trade carried on at the depot. Once again the people on the river came to Coraki for stores in preference to anywhere else and gave William their trade.
As before, the timber-getters had unlimited credit against their cheques. Ship-repairs and occasional government contracts were gladly accepted.
Eliza and John Robinson were living in Grafton when their baby was due. Grafton with a population of 1400 had now been proclaimed a city and Thomas Bawden who was now an auctioneer, was elected a member of the first Municipal Council. Magdalen could hardly believe that the groups of huts that she had known as the Settlement and Woolport had combined to become a place of such importance. Thomas Bawden, a boy of ten when she knew him, now a Councillor. And Oliver Fry who had been the Commissioner in the early days, had died at the age of forty in Sydney, a disillusioned man, and his properties were sold by mortgagees.
"Mr Fry used to say that timber in the Big Scrub wouldn't all be cut for centuries," commented William. "But already all the good timber along the creeks has gone in less than twenty years. He was wrong even in that."
"I wish I could be with Eliza in Grafton for her confinement," said Magdalen. "But she will have more facilities there. You know I think Spot is pining for Eliza. He's not eating since she left. I'm sure he's fretting."
"He's getting old you know. He must be about twelve. Most dogs don't live much beyond that."
When Eliza's time came, nine and a half months after her wedding, the mid-wife delivered a healthy son, John junior. And about the same time Spot was laid to rest in the garden at Coraki Cottage. A few weeks later a letter arrived from the Macleay River that Jane had another daughter Emma. Magdalen thought that Jane so like herself in many ways, now had an eight-year old daughter, Mary and a new baby daughter, so like her own situation with Jane and Baby Eliza, nearly twenty years ago. And William Kinny struggling in the Outback to make a living, not unlike William in the early days at the Settlement. She hoped that they would eventually find contentment and prosperity.