Chapter 22

William Kinny called frequently at Coraki Cottage while engaged in the coastal trade. It was apparent that his interest was not confined to ship-repairs and trade with William. Jane was not at ease socially but the visitor recognised that she had underlying sterling qualities. She was unselfishly devoted to her family and would undoubtedly be a good home-maker; she had no unfeminine conceit, but had a keen mind which she directed to the acquiring of all the accomplishments valued by women in a pioneering district. As a girl there had been no opportunities for her to learn music or painting, but she could read and draw well and her hand-writing and needlework were painstaking. None of these things mattered to the visiting shipsmaster, but her attitude of acceptance of things she could not change, her respect for her parents, her sincere concern for the children, impressed him so that he wanted to find out more about her. As a rule the quiet eldest daughter of the family had stayed in the background leaving Eliza as the centre of attention. But William Kinny was well repaid for the interest he showed and found a modest, good-tempered, intelligent woman, now aged twenty-four, who could calmly cope with a family crisis and take over the household when Magdalen was not well.

Fred West had not been seen for a long time. One of his relatives, also called Fred West worked for William at times, and he expressed the opinion that Jane had not been at fault in their marriage. It was suggested that Jane should write to Sydney for advice about an annulment of the marriage to protect Mary's interests. Jane had given no thought to the possibility of remarriage. She found her life at Coraki more meaningful and interesting than her life at Rocky Mouth with Fred. But William Kinny was different. Although obviously interested in her he put no pressure on her to respond. As she got to know him better she found herself becoming responsive to his attention and was surprised at how much more rewarding a friendship was now that she was more mature and less romantic. There was a sincerity in his blue eyes, an uprightness in his tall stature and a homeliness about his red hair. Her father had an unqualified regard for the visitor and offered him a position as captain of his next ship. To be nearby, William Kinny spent as much time as possible at Coraki helping to build the new ship, while cargoes were loaded and unloaded by the crew.

He talked to Jane about his home in the pretty rural town of Dumfries, south of Glasgow. He told her about his ancestors the McKinnon Clan. Her father came into the room and recalled that his mother's family had also come from Scotland, from Roxborough, south of Edinburgh, not far from Dumfries.

"My mother died last year," William went on. "My father still lives in Devon near Plymouth. My sister-in-law who is a widow is keeping house for him."
"Did your mother live in a castle in Scotland?" asked Annie.
"Of course not," said Jane.
"My mother didn't live in Scotland. Most of the relatives in Scotland wouldn't know anything about the Yabsleys. I met Sir George Elliot at the Plymouth docks where I served my apprenticeship. He was the Admiral of the Fleet. He told me that his son Gilbert Elliot had gone to New South Wales as Aide-de-Camp to Governor Gipps and was very taken with the country. Sir George arranged for me to enlist in the Royal Navy and sail on the 'Beagle'."
"Things were very bad in England then," said Magdalen. "When your father wrote that he had left the ship, at Sydney Town, and liked it in New South Wales, I packed up and left straight away. Otherwise we might still be living in a tenement."
"What's this about a castle?" asked William Kinny. "Annie is thinking about the Elliots of Minto. I've never been there so I don't know what they live in, but Mother used to tell us they were Barons and Earls."
"Is Gilbert Elliot still Aide-de-Camp?" asked William Kinny.
"No. He took up a property but was not successful. He didn't know anything about the Outback. He died a few years back. I don't think he would have worked for the next Governor who did very little for the Colony. And now we have yet another new Governor."
"I expect you've seen some changes since you arrived?" asked William Kinny. The Colony now self-governing and the railways taken over by the Government. I was reading the other day that Lord Grey has been trying to recommend the use of one gauge in case the lines should ever meet"
"You know George Grey was on the 'Beagle' with me. His idea does seem far-fetched to me, but I suppose one day it is possible the lines might meet. I'll never see it."
"Railways would be a big advantage in moving goods quickly," said William Kinny. "You'll be building railways instead of ships."
"Not I." said William. "Timber is my trade. By the way did you hear about the enormous tree felled by Tommy Foley and his mates at the junction of Skenner's and Wilson's Creek? Thirty-three thousand feet of timber. And of course weeks of strenuous work with axes and saws and handspikes."
"I'm glad I'm not expected to do work like that," said Magdalen. "Now Jane why don't you take Captain Kinny for a walk to the village?"

* * *

Life at Coraki still moved with the tide as it did on all the northern rivers. Rafts of logs or casks of tallow from 'Tomki' boiling-down works could be seen on the river when the tide was going out. When the tide came in schooners were towed up-river by their crews in pulling boats. In February, March and April most years it was difficult to cross out over the bar because of rains, and the S.S.W. winds. Ships came in in batches as many as a dozen at a time, then it might be several weeks before the next lot could cross. Some of the vessels moored in the river and goods were carried from them by a young man known as Bill. He was William Tudor Yeager, a new-corner to the river from Lubeck, Canada. After a short period of gold mining, he had settled on the Richmond River, a penniless boy of eighteen. Previously he had served on a ship under Captain George Easton, now the pilot at Bullinah, so young Bill had learned something of seamanship. Using a small pulling boat with a sail he established a delivery service from schooners moored in the river. His business often brought him to Coraki which was rapidly developing into a river port, and William gave him as much work as he could and recommended him to all the captains who called.
"He has a lot of courage and determination. We admire that youth very much and can recommend his reliability."

* * *

The district was indeed beginning to grow. There were 147 names on the electoral roll which included the Clarence River, the Richmond River and the Darling Downs. The election of 1856 was the first under Responsible Government which had been achieved the year before under the new Governor, Sir William Denison. Although Clark Irving lived in Castlereagh St, in Sydney, he had the support of the people in the north. Oliver Fry's appointment as Commissioner for the district came to an end when Mr Bligh was appointed Police Magistrate. Oliver Fry put up for Parliament against Clark Irving and campaigned at Bullinah, Lismore and Casino. Later at Grafton he was heckled and jeered and soon after retired from the field. He was tentatively appointed Police Magistrate of the Gwydir District but nothing came of it. His sixteen-year old wife had a baby son after a difficult confinement and people felt sorry for the girl. It seemed he had fallen on hard times and into dissolute habits. Settlers felt little sympathy for him. Magdalen said "He was probably given more responsibility than any man his age could have handled when he was appointed Commissioner at the age of twenty-three. Naturally people resented his decisions especially when he knew so little about local conditions and didn't care much anyway. I'm so glad Mr Irving has got into Parliament for us. Henry Barnes says he is a good man."
"Maybe, but we really need someone who has had more experience in the Outback to know what it's like and what we need. But of course people who really know about things are all far too busy to go into Parliament. At least we now have a member to speak for us, which I suppose is progress. The next thing we'll be surveyed and towns and villages developed."

By the end of the year the surveyor Frederick Peppercorne had set aside areas for village reserves. Some of the squatters lost parts of their properties, but many had calculated where the villages were most likely to develop and had organised their runs accordingly. Others had lost large sections and could buy very little of the strategic areas. There were few bidders for land at Lismore and Bullinah, but at Casino allotments and small farms sold at above the minimum price. The property originally called 'Cassino' by Clay and Stapleton was much reduced. Clark Irving now had interests in other properties and his overseer Henry Barnes was buying property on his own account. In August when he married Grace Hindmarsh, he brought her from Grafton to 'Dyraaba' station. Casino now had a doctor, Doctor Barker and a chemist shop run by James Stocks who had arrived recently from Yorkshire with his wife and son John aged four.

Bullinah was renamed Deptford by Frederick Peppercorne after the timber port on the Thames, but the name was not accepted by the settlers. They preferred the name they had become used to. The Irish had twisted the native 'Bullinah' to 'Ballina' a town in County Mayo and so it became known.

The village of Lismore was surveyed in the house paddock of Lismore House, the home built for William Wilson by William Clement. A mill had opened the year before but had closed down when the mill hands left for the Diggings. Travellers could rest in the village and leave their horses before crossing the river in the punt.

The schooners trading on the river were fitted out to carry cargo and had no cabins or berths for passengers. In favourable weather, prospective settlers spent six days travelling from Sydney to the Heads then they might wait for weeks to cross the bar. Then began the slow journey up the Richmond as far as Casino or Lismore, towed by the ship's pulling boat. Many who went as far as the townships, bought allotments at auction sales, cleared the block and built slab huts on streets which could only be identified by a surveyor's peg. Sometimes they found they had cleared and built on another man's block.

* * *

On the voyage back from England, the Mylne family all suffered considerably from seasickness, except Tom. Even the cow, which had been given free passage in exchange for milk, could produce none. Their servants had left England in advance and helped to prepare a feast to welcome the family home to 'Eatonswill' and the people of the Clarence district were eagerly anticipating a hearty reception.

On board ship the captain tried to enter Sydney Heads on a very dark stormy night. The 'Dunbar' went ashore at the Gap. The only survivor was a sailor.

When William and Magdalen heard the news they were most distressed. Many ships were lost especially at the bars of the rivers. People had to accept it, but did not get used to it.

"At least when the 'Pelican' went down no-one was drowned," said William. Whenever William thought of the 'Pelican' he was sad to think of the loss, but as time went on and his next vessel took shape, he was able to see that he had learned a great deal from her construction and handling, and that the new ship was better as well as larger. He was satisfied and once again optimistic.

They all worked hard and there were few festivals or celebrations. The annual picnic day had continued, but had not grown into the social event which John had anticipated; rather it was a simple holiday, an occasion to relax with their neighbours and enjoy games and contests. Cricket was played regularly when weather and seasonal work permitted, and there were horse races several times a year. William allowed Bill to compete in these events, and Charlie the chestnut ridden by Bill Yabsley were the champions.

People watched the progress of the new ship anticipating a holiday to launch her. William Kinny spent more and more time helping to build her. He suggested the name 'Coraki'.

William made a point of being at home on Sundays, and of spending the day with his family, doing only essential farm work. Now that he had a settled home and a clock to regulate the day, he felt that he could also regulate the week. It had not seemed to matter in the early days: one day was the same as the next except that on every seventh day according to their rough calendars, they took time to wash their clothes and do some housekeeping and repair tools. After Magdalen's arrival it had not been much different. There were always urgent tasks and repairs to be done ready for the next week's work. Now that they were established they preferred to keep the Sabbath as a day of relaxation, evaluation and planning. It was the usual day for visitors. Apart from that there were few holidays.

On Sundays everyone dressed in his or her least ragged clothes, and even four-year old Tommy was encouraged to keep clean. If a visitor came, the girls took out the remnants of the good china. Most of it was broken and Magdalen had not replaced it with fragile china but with tin ware. The girls washing up were encouraged to be very careful of the remaining pieces of china and were proud if Magdalen did not hear it clink.

Most days were filled with work and study and useful activities. So a ship-launching with its promise of renewed prosperity was a great occasion. All their friends came bringing food and drink and after inspecting the eighty ton vessel they greeted their friends. This time there was a bottle of pale brandy for Magdalen to use to launch the vessel. The bottle shattered against the stem, the ladies clapped and the men raised their hats and cheered. For a moment the ship paused then began the steep descent to the river, gathering momentum as it slid down the greased slipway. The sound of the movement and the rumble of chains could be heard above the noise of the crowd. The hull hit the water at a sharp angle and it seemed it would continue straight to the bottom. The small boats belonging to the spectators bobbed and rocked as the waves reached the bank. Then everyone set about celebrating.

There was cricket of course also boat races and horse races and in between there was eating and drinking and music. But more important to most of them was the chance to meet people and renew old friendships and catch up on news. The main item of local interest was the discovery of gold in many of the creeks in the Tableland. The formation of a new Colony had been approved in London in 1856, but the question of the southern border remained and was hotly debated in the district. Because of growing trade and communication with Sydney, most people felt they had more ties with New South Wales than the proposed new colony. The biggest news of national interest was that franchise had been extended to all adult males of six months residence in an electorate.

Women were not supposed to be interested in politics. Most of them did not dream of offering an opinion although they did listen to the discussions. It was accepted that women did not have the power of reasoning and logic and they did not want to demonstrate a lack of femininity in front of the men and other women, so each woman kept her thoughts to herself, except to agree with her own man on the advantages of Protectionism, Free trade or Separation. Magdalen could not read well enough to gain much from the newspaper which William took and did not have time even on Sundays to sit down and study articles, so she depended on William for most of her information. Events in the world always seemed too remote to touch her life which was filled with cooking, sewing, cleaning, gardening, teaching and mothering. More important to her was the fact that their old friend Henry Barnes and his young wife were now the proud parents of a little daughter, Sara.

"I hope I'm finished with having children," said Magdalen. "You're just starting. We're so pleased for you."

William was watching the 'Coraki' floating at anchor in the river opposite Coraki Cottage. "We now have a clock to measure time, and Peppercorne is measuring miles, but for me the important thing is knowing the tides, even up here, miles inland."

As quickly as possible the 'Coraki' was fitted and rigged and ready to start in the coastal trade. There was still plenty of timber, although most of it was now coming from higher up the creeks and rivers. William Yabsley and William Kinny loaded the vessel with timber and sailed for Sydney, where the cargo was sold at the Market Wharf, and other goods bought. It had been a long time since William senior had been to Sydney, and he took time to study new things in the stores and the market place. Among the things he bought was a kerosene lamp and several tins of kerosene, also tanned leather for shoes to replace the rough footwear he made for the family.

Everyone was so pleased with the new kerosene lamp, that William ordered more for themselves and the store.

In the store was an incongruous mixture of herrings, moleskin shorts, pickles, hessian boots, captain's biscuits, onions, sardines and the new lamps. Most of the goods sold quickly, especially the lamps, which were a precious luxury, kept carefully trimmed and the glasses kept well polished. William immediately put in another order.


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