Thursday, 23 January 2014



When I thought about writing this blog I knew it was going to be distressing. The death of children is heart rending for everyone. But just imagine what it was like in the Australian outback one hundred years ago when a child got injured or took ill.

No doctor for a hundred miles; a trip that involved a ride in a buggy over a barely formed road. If you could get to a doctor in time he couldn’t have done anything for infectious diseases that were still around like diphtheria.
 Certainly he could give pain relief (usually opium), set broken bones or do a basic operation. At the turn of the century, one third of the deaths in the vast region of North Queensland (where the family had settled), were children under ten.  Most deaths were from dysentery, scarlet fever and diphtheria.  
John Clark as you can remember had already lost his first wife and their baby girl. Enough was enough you’d think. Unfortunately, tragedy would strike again and it struck twice. Esther and John Clark had had four girls over the years, Jane Florence (my grandmother), Minnie Maud, Georgina and Constance Isabel.
In 1889 Georgina aged five died from a ruptured appendix and in 1892, Constance died from diphtheria. They both died at the Lornesleigh homestead and were buried near the stockyards. Their headstones are still there despite flood waters having passed over them several times. To see your children die is suffering beyond belief and then having to bury them on top of that. How do you keep functioning? I guess, in those days you had to keep going or you gave up and died. For Esther and John, they kept going.
I remember as a kid at Lornesleigh looking at the ornate headstones of the two girls side by side, the graves covered in old seashells. I thought about the two girls and wondered how life would have turned out for them if they had lived. I still think about them occasionally. Probably always will.   

Monday, 6 January 2014



In 1880, John Clark certainly married a woman suited for the rugged Australian outback. My great grandmother, Esther Geary, was no genteel, fainting lady from the city salons. 

She was a true Geary but she was genteel in a way; she didn’t have a police record. In turn, she married a tough man who was creating a cattle empire in one of the most remote and hostile parts of Australia.  During this time, Europeans were encroaching on Aboriginal land and the Aborigines were fighting back.  When she came to Lornesleigh Station in 1880, there was a tribe of Aborigines living at the nearby river.
There was a frontier war going on between Europeans and Aborigines across North Queensland. It was brutal as any war with many thousands of people losing their lives, many been innocently massacred. For the Aborigines, it ultimately meant the loss of their culture and traditional lands. I will speak more about the frontier war in future blogs.
ABORIGINAL FAMILY. Source: janesoceania.

Unlike his contemporaries who were employing savage methods to rid their stations of Aborigines, John Clark wanted to live in harmony with them. I think he thought that this vast land was big enough to support everyone.  A great cause of conflict on cattle stations was the spearing of cattle.  Usually the Aborigines speared the cattle as they were easy targets which in turn resulted in reprisals. At Lornesleigh, John Clark would kill cattle for the Aborigines thus avoiding the savage cascade of events. It was, I guess, frontier diplomacy.

Sometimes, there was a breakdown in communication. My great grandmother was at the homestead by herself one morning when a lone Aboriginal man decided to visit. She was in the kitchen.The stockmen and John Clark were out mustering cattle. The Aboriginal male demanded tobacco. When Esther told him she didn’t have any he became agitated. He was agitated enough that Esther produced a rifle and told him to leave. Unfortunately for him, he laughed and said, “White Mary can’t shoot.”

She fired over his head, the bullet going through the wall of the kitchen. Her last sight of him was him tearing through the bush back to the safety of the Aboriginal camp.