Chapter 29

The new vessel the 'Index' seemed small after the 'Examiner'. It would be a fifty ton paddle steamer much larger than Bill Yeager's 'Keystone' which was too small for the heavy work of towing large ships across the bar in rough weather. At times there were up to thirty vessels waiting for a tug. Conditions at the Heads were getting worse. A big sand bar had built up and ships under sail could not handle the obstacle. At times the entrance was wide and shallow at other times narrow and deep. A flood could open an entirely new channel. The steamer 'Waimea' was wrecked on the Richmond River bar in 1872 and services had to be suspended as no replacement was available. William hated the noisy clamour of tugs, the hiss of steam, the smoke, the smell of oil and grease, but commercial interests dictated his actions. He would not let nostalgia and a personal preference for the beautiful vessels interfere with business.

The 'Schoolboy' and the 'Examiner' sailed to the ports with their cargoes and passengers with speed and reliability. The record trip to Melbourne was nine days, one month from Adelaide to Maryborough and back to Coraki. The turnabout at Coraki was accomplished in the shortest possible time with all hands loading and all man-power except the derricks and two small auxiliary engines. Rapid transport was important if dealers wanted to catch the best markets especially with butter and cheese in hot weather. Bigger ships such as the 'Examiner' were very popular, being faster and carrying more cargo, but were more difficult to manoeuvre in the river and across the bar. This had made William decide to build his own tug, which would also be available for hire when he was not using it.

There was plenty of work for all the vessels on the river. A timber dealer at Lismore wrote to William Clement at Ballina "Please send one of your boys on board every vessel that enters and try to secure them. I have 100,000 feet of timber waiting." And later "I have telegraphed to Sydney for a vessel. Please look out for the very first vessel that enters and charter it for Newcastle. It's a strange thing that I can't get two or three when the fleet comes in."

William Clement said he had problems of his own since he had taken up sugar-growing. He had been growing cane and selling cuttings until he became interested in starting a mill. He had a horse and decided to do without a centrifuge but he had to get pans. He began a most ambitious enterprise of building a mill chimney and began buying cane from the farmers. With the help of his horse Jack he made sugar which he sold locally at 4d a pound. He was also active in the 'Sons of Temperance' which provided medical benefits for its member. On one occasion two hundred Sons assembled to hear the chemist Mr J. Walker sing 'Bright Star of Temperance', composed especially for the occasion. They thought it a better place to meet, relax and sing than the local pub. The benefits paid were 20/- a week sickness allowance.

Sometime later William Clement began to crush cane in his mill with his horse Punch. Punch could not move it so he put in Jack. Both horses tried until they broke the capstan head off. This was most disheartening, especially when it was found that the cane was of such low density that the sugar would not crystallise. Cane cutters brought up from Sydney at £1 a week and rations, demanded beef and more beef, took a long Christmas holiday, refused to work and left. By then the cane had lost its value.

In the mill eight hands were required, one to feed cane into the rollers, one at the sugar boiler, one at the centrifuge if there was one, one cane driver and one for odd chores, a skipper and mate for the punts, as well as the manager. Wages were high in comparison with the returns. William Clement had a series of misfortunes and finally was ready to call a meeting of his creditors, but being ever optimistic was willing to be persuaded by friends such as William and Magdalen to plant cane instead. The local market was over-supplied and he had to send it to Sydney. Magdalen felt so sorry that he and Eleanor were having such a struggle.

Charles Jarrett of Ballina had hauled a lot of timber to the beach at Byron Bay and Charley Yabsley went up by tug to load it. The timber was pulled out into the surf by bullocks, then tied to a rope the end of which was tied to a pulling boat which stayed just outside the breakers. The men in the boat rowed, hauling the logs out, waited for another log to be attached, up to eight logs at time. These were towed to the 'Examiner' moored in deeper water, the logs were lifted out of the water by the ship's derricks and tackle worked by hand winch, and the boat returned for more. It could only be accomplished in smooth seas. In ten hours they could load sixty to eighty logs. On one occasion with a full crew they loaded ninety-nine logs, never one hundred. Then Charley became sick on the job and Mr Jarrett lent him a horse to ride along the beach to Ballina, where he stayed with William Clement until he could get home on a river boat.

* * *

This had been an eventful year for William and Magdalen. The launching of the 'Examiner' had been a climax in their lives. The Big Shed was used as a landmark, even by people who had no connection with shipping. In January next William would be sixty and Magdalen would be the same age in February. They had been married for nearly forty years. Although they had both put on a lot of weight, William's broad shoulders make him look solid rather than obese and gave him the nickname 'Square'.

Harry now twenty-four played cricket at every opportunity and was regarded as a first-rate batsman. Annie at twenty-six enjoyed a busy social life and had an eye for fashion but did not seem to meet anyone who appealed to her for a permanent relationship. The younger ones all had marriage plans. Charley, 21 and Tommy, eighteen were courting Grace and Mary McDougall of Fernmount. Lizzie planned to marry Oliver Jones when he finished his apprenticeship, and young Magdalen was fully occupied with arrangements for her wedding day. Thomas King, one of the trusted employees, had begun their home.

During the year Arthur, Louisa, Alice and Albert, William junior's children were all sick with measles. They were fretful and disagreeable day and night. Magdalen went to help Frances who was nearly asleep on her feet after sleepless nights. As one child settled down, the next began to cry miserably. The younger children were not as sick as Arthur and Louisa who were slightly delirious and thought they saw things in the room.

As soon as the children began to recover, their father began to feel unwell, Frances examined him for spots but found none. By mid-day he felt a little better so went to work. The next day was a repetition. On the fourth morning Magdalen went over to examine him and as she watched the spots began to pop out all over his face and chest.

"Measles all right," she said. "He'll probably be worse than the children. I'll stay a little longer and see how he is."

james stocksJames Stocks, chemist, later the first mayor of Lismore.
(by courtesy of Richmond River Historical Society)

James Stocks came with medicine and lotion which did not help a great deal.

William junior was ill for ten days then began to recover and went back to work still not at all well after a couple of weeks but unable to keep away from the job. Meantime Charley was floating a raft down to Ballina when he became ill so stopped at Eliza's place. John's mother realised he had measles so a message went back to Coraki and Harry was sent to take the raft on and Charley stayed in bed at Swan Bay. Eliza expected with resignation that her children would all be next, but instead the next patient was her father, who had an enforced period in bed at Coraki.

The family was very worried because of his age, but also had a sneaking feeling of satisfaction that he would now know what it felt like to be ill.

"You're a very impatient patient," said Lizzie.

The telegraph line now came through to Casino which was a thriving town of several hundred people. Lismore and Ballina were still too small to be listed, but in Casino the streets were laid out straight and wide and the first newspaper on the river was printed. All the selectors had to go to the Land Office in Casino to make selections and pay interest. Robert Donaldson was sent to supervise the building of the first bridge over the Richmond which was to be named after Clark Irving who had years ago tried to have one built. The engineer brought a model and suspended it between two chairs and sat on it to prove how strong it was. William and Henry Barnes were both at the demonstration.

"It's hard to believe that at last we get a bridge. Clark Irving spent so much effort trying to get something done years ago, twenty years I'd say."
"At last we're seeing some progress on the river. By the look of the model the bridge will be worth waiting for."
"It's hard to believe that this is the same place we knew years ago, with so much land now cleared for farming and so many settlers and stores and everything. I've heard that James Stocks will take on the job of auctioneer, as well as running his general store and chemist shop. I suppose it seems so remarkable because we weren't used to the idea of so many changes in the Old Country."
"There wasn't so much room for progress. That's the attraction of New South Wales."
"I find it hard to recall just how it used to be. Some places I can't recognise at all."
Henry said jokingly "You know it's hard to remember you as you were when I first met you looking like a 'Beardie' and asking the way to the Heads."
"These days they call me 'Square'. We never thought the Big Scrub could be penetrated. Now large parts of it are turned into farms. Amazing."
"By the way, tell Magdalen that Grace had another son - our seventh baby - called William."


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