Tuesday, 30 May 2017


Thomas James Bell.

Here's another story about my wild great uncle, T.J. Bell. T.J. was staying at the Queens Hotel in the early part of the twentieth century. The Queens Hotel was located in Townsville, Queensland. It was the grandest hotel in the north, the place to stay for dignitaries and graziers who were the power elite of the time. It was the snob centre of town.

Queen's Hotel, Townsville. Foyer entry is to left of photo. Photograph from Townsville City Libraries.

So it all probably started with T.J. getting into an extended drinking bout with his cronies then a bet. It progressively went downhill from there.  The dare was to bring a four in hand carriage into the front foyer of the Queen’s Hotel. A four in hand is a carriage drawn by four horses positioned with two at the front and two behind.

Well, you have to admire T.J.’s pluck because he nearly did it. He did manage to get the two front horses into the foyer before being stopped by irate hotel staff.  I’m not sure if he won the bet or got permanently banned from the hotel.   

Sunday, 21 May 2017


Just to set things right, we call it cattle duffing in the outback not cattle rustling.  Cattle duffing is regarded as Australia’s second oldest industry.  I’ll let you figure out which is the oldest.

Cattle duffing is still as relevant today as it was in the wild colonial days. In fact, it is on the rise in rural Australia despite the fact that it is harder to steal cattle now then one hundred years ago.  The Australian state of Queensland has a police unit specifically devoted to stock theft which is aptly titled, The Stock Squad.
Apparently, ice-addicts in rural towns are duffing livestock from farms in their desperate desire to fund their addiction. I read one recent story about a grazier who left his cattle station for a week to attend a wedding and returned to find that nearly one million dollars of his live stock had been stolen. At one thousand dollars a head, cattle duffing is seen as a lucrative criminal activity.
My father once told me that Uncle Jack and he were once boundary riding around our station when they caught the next door neighbours helping themselves to our cattle. Uncle Jack and dad blew their stacks and actually pulled rifles on them. Uncle Jack threatened to shoot them if he ever caught them again.  I dare say he would have.

In the outback, cattle duffers will meet with swift justice, if the law is looking the other way or the law is a hundred miles away. Cattle duffing is taken very seriously in the outback..  

Monday, 15 May 2017


I recently found this rather gruesome story about a relative I didn’t know anything about. The relative in question was a George Williamson Clark who was a half-brother of my great grandfather, John Henry Clark. My great grandfather’s family were largely unknown to me until now.
The following story about George Clark is fairly indicative of the brutality that occurred on the outback frontier in the nineteenth century. It was a time of European expansion into Aboriginal land with total disregard for Aboriginal traditions and lives.  Of course, Aborigines fought back but the odds were stacked against them. Over the years, massacres of Aborigines occurred frequently, right up until the 1930’s.
In 1892, George was working at a remote outstation at Cresswell Downs in the Northern Territory, a place that is still an isolated part of Australia.  
A visitor by the name of Charles Fox was in the kitchen of the outstation with a Charles Deloitte and two other men. He noticed that George Clark wasn’t there and decided to look for him at the branding yard nearby. The first thing he noticed when he got to the yards was an arm sticking out from under a blanket.  When he peeled back the blanket, George was dead with a smashed in skull as a result of a tomahawk blow.
Fox was then attacked by five Aboriginal men throwing spears. He was able to get away and raise help. When they returned, Deloitte lay dead in the outstation kitchen.  What would follow was the police leading two ‘punitive expeditions’ against the local Aborigines that year. There are no figures on how many Aborigines were massacred.
Years later, local Aborigines told researchers that the reason why Deloitte and Clark were killed was because they were raping the Aboriginal woman. According to Aboriginal law, they had broken a strict taboo and had to be killed. It had been pay back.