Queanbeyan in the Bygone Days. SOME MEMORY SKETCHES, By an Old Resident. The year of Grace, 1838, was the third year of the long, long drought in New South Wales. All the minor streams in the Queanbeyan district were dried up. The bed of Lake George was hard, dry and shiny. Canberra (we called it Limestone then) consisted of one small hut, like the birthplace of Scotland's ploughboy poet, Bobby Burns. Within its rough slab walls and be- neath its bark roof was born Can- berra's first white child, James Kin- sela. Great is the heat; the sun, like a burnished copper plate, blazes down out of a sky of brass. So dry and dusty is the plain that the flight of a native dog can easily be traced by the cloud of dust that rises in his wake. Out on the plain, with a mournful drone, rises a great column of red dust. It is a whirl- wind. Slowly it travels southwards till it disappears over the hill named after one of the gods of the heathen Ancient Britons (Woden). West- wards looms the shadow of the Tharwa Mountains. Dear reader, have you ever read that interesting booklet, written many years ago by Mr. John Gale, your old and re- spected townsman, called "Six Days in the Mountains of Cowley?" I fear it is now out of print; but, if you have not read it, and could get hold of a copy of it, it would give you a graphic idea of what was in the days I speak of a tract of terri- tory theretofore but little, if at all, known to other than the aboriginal blackfellow. That mountain region from Tharwa westwards and south- wards was not so drought-stricken as the plains and lower-lying country eastwards and northwards. It was also more frequently visited by tro- pical storms--some of them of a truly terrific character. Out in those mountains are some wonder- ful caves. In one of them (known as the Kangaroo Cave) are still to be seen some aboriginal drawings in red and blue pigments. They are mostly figures of animals and birds, and the dusky hand, skilled in the lost art of throwing the boomerang, displayed some considerable skill in their production. For all we know to the contrary, these drawings may be hundreds of years old, etched be- fore the Ancient Britons made flint arrow heads. So far, we have been treating of the western areas of the Queanbeyan district. Now let us turn to the east. Some eight or nine miles up the river we come to what is too small to call a settlement--a col- lection of bark-roofed huts. This is the Queanbeyan of those bygone days. But, alas, in those times it was here the fetter and chain held sway. It was the period in the dis- trict's history when a brutal one- armed flogger plied his gruesome task, and he was a flogger in the most shuddersome sense of the word. Many a time lost in the great arch of heaven were the plaintive echoes of the miserable convict's wail. In a hut near the river lived Mrs. C. McKeahnie, an immigrant far from the land of the sword, the kilt, and the feather. As a rule immigrants were not in those days much in favour with the convicts. But she was loved by them, and woe to the person who would molest or inter- fere with her Why? Because many a time she provided clean linen and ointment to dress the convicts' lacer- ated backs. Here, in this hut was born the first white boy of Quean- beyan; and he and James Kinsela mentioned above were fast friends right down to the sunset of their eventful lives. Just opposite her humble home, on the western side of the river, on a bluff overlooking the stream, was laid to rest little Annie, the first white child buried in Queanbeyan. Before Mrs. McKeahnie left Que- anbeyan she had some thrilling ex- periences there. At that time the Queanbeyan River was only a small watercourse, with here and there a deep waterhole fringed with weeds and ti-tree bushes, and over its sur- face at eventide skimmed lovely plumaged kingfishers. On a certain evening Mrs. McKeahnie went to the river-side to gather ti-tree for the makings of a broom, as then used by the early settlers. Presently a man, who was known to be mad, made his appearance. She at once abandoned her ti-tree gathering, and made for her home, which she entered, barring the door after her. The madman had seen her and fol- lowed her. She saw him come up to the door, with frothing mouth and flaming eyes. Time and again with all his strength he hurled him- self against the door, while, ever and anon he yelled, "Come out, you magic witch, till I knock your brains out." Presently, to her horror, the frightened woman saw the clamps of the door begin to draw, and she thought her last hour had come. "Man, man," she exclaimed, "what harm did I ever do you that you treat me like this?" Then a strange thing happened. The madman
quietened down in a moment, and asked, "What, what! Who is speak- ing? I did not mean to hurt you. I thought I was in an enchanted castle, and I wanted to brain the witch." With that the maniac made off. Later on, in the dead of the night, she heard blows being struck down at the river side, and a man's voice exclaiming, "Oh, my God, am I to be murdered like this?" She has- tened to the residence of Captain Faunce, police magistrate, and to the house of Chief-constable Kin- sela, urging them to come along quickly, as a man was being mur- dered down at the river crossing. But when they got to the place whence the cries were being heard, they saw nothing indicating mur- der. What they saw was a dray overturned on to a man, and every time the horse plunged it ground the guard-iron into the unfortunate man's back. Hence his agonising cries. He was soon released. On another occasion, when the men were all away, this heroic lady, hearing frantic screams proceeding from down the river, ran quickly to the spot, and there saw James Kinsela's little sister floating mid- stream towards a deep waterhole, buoyed up by her under-clothing. Nothing daunted, Mrs. McKeahnie waded in till the water was up to her chin, caught the little child and brought her out. Had there been anyone present to have witnessed the pluck of this brave Scotswoman, they might well have shouted, "Scot- land for ever." The early settlers of the time I am writing about had but clumsy implements and utensils to work with. Instead of the all-iron or ironbound buckets of our day, they cut a rounded lump from the side of a tree, scraped it hollow, and of this "calabash" (as it was called) made wash-tubs and buckets. Wire nails there were none, nor anything answering to brace-and-bit. All scooping-out and hollowing was done by mere gimlets, and tiresome was that old gimlet-boring. Their aug- ers were minus a screw. Men sunk post-holes with pick-and-shovel. The writer has one of the old-time picks, it weighs 10lbs.; also an old-time falling-axe, with a blade 11 inches long and a handle thicker than a mattock handle; yet the work done with these crude tools was good in every way. Moving from place to place was done by bullock-teams creeping along at a snail-like pace. Little thought they in those days of the words of Holy Writ:-- "The chariots shall fly with flaming tor- ches; they shall rage in the streets; they shall jostle one against another in the broad ways." A few years after 1838 transpor- tation ceased. The British people had long looked with upbraiding eye on the transportation of men for poaching, snaring rabbits, and such trivial offences. Upon the disappearance of the "red drought" of 1852, snow-storms and frightful floods were experien- ced. After many days of heavy snow great floods caused by rains and melting snows combined, wrought terrible destruction. At Coolamon Plains a whole herd of cattle per- ished. The snow was many feet deep; and after the thaw it was a weird sight to see skeletons of beasts high up in the forks of the trees, many feet from the ground. The snow had covered the trees to their topmost branches, and the starving cattle, supported by the frozen snow- crust, roamed browsing on the few exposed boughs. When the thaw- ing process set in, this frozen crust gave way, entangling the weakened beasts in the forks of the trees. Many of their skeletons may be seen there to the present day. Such was the thunderous roar of the swollen Murrumbidgee River that it could be heard many miles away. It was that historic and unprecedented flood that swept away the town of Gundagai, leaving but few of its inhabi- tants to escape. It was said that an old blackfellow warned the white population not to build on the site of the original township on account of its having once before seen inundation. In conclusion, the writer may add that he knows nothing of the Queanbeyan River of to-day, and has never seen the weir built across it; but he knows that gone is the early settler, the big waterholes, the ti-tree and the kingfisher of the days he has written of. To them all he says, "Our kindly thoughts go with you; you've lived your day; your sun is set; and Queanbeyan will know you no more for ever." Yarra, near Goulburn, March, 1916.