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.


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