From John Ray's shorter notes
November 25, 2013
Wonders of the North. A VISITOR'S VIEWS AND IMPRESSIONS
From the Hillston Spectator and Lachlan River Advertiser, Australia, Friday 16 October 1908
A former resident of Nowra writes: — I am still in the 'black north,' as some call it, I can hardly find words to express the pleasure I had in travelling in these regions.
My journey ended at the Barron Falls, where I made a turn for home. Such a pleasant Sunday, amongst old cannibals [Pacific Islanders; Melanesians] in the coffee plantation, climbing the cliffs at the Falls, pulling bananas and paw paws, and oranges — all this was a new life to me.
You know nothing of paw paws. Well they are a fruit as large as a rock melon and somewhat similar in flavor. You can eat them all day. The grenadillo [granadilla, a tropical vine in the passionfruit family: Passiflora quadrangularis] (a fruit much nicer than passionfruit, but much after the same style, and as large as a small rock melon), is simply delicious. Then there are the mangoes and custard apples, pineapples and other fruit unknown to southern soils.
They get the heat here it is true, but they have many compensating advantages in tropical fruit. There is also the cotton (I am bringing some back in its native state) and cocoa, and indiarubber. All these are exceptionally interesting.
The creeks around here swarm with alligators but I am sorry I cannot afford time to go out. They are in the pools below the Barron Falls, and many a Chow has been swallowed holus bolus.
It is this way. The Chow goes down to the creek to wash his clothes. He goes down often. The 'gator, no doubt, saw him when he went down first. But he doesn't act then. He allows the Chow to come down often, and when the yellow-skin feels that everything is safe there at the particular spot the 'gator steals silently from the water, and there is one chow less in Redlynch — that is the name of the creek.
There is a great hullabaloo in Redlynch that night among the Chinamen. Next day, or the day after, or a week after, that alligator comes looking for more Chow, but instead of that he gets a dog! (poisoned with strychnine). Then the hilarious Chows shout with joy as the 'gator jumps frantically out of the water in the middle of the stream, in his endeavor to form the letter G. All is soon over. The 'gator is cut open, and a few brass buttons are found, but no bones to send home to China.
The alligator is now and again seen in the ocean, but very seldom, as the shark beats him every time. If a 'gator wants co go from one creek to another he crawls along the beach inside the surf so that the shark can't get at him. The 'gator as a rule, but not always, immediately feeds off his catch, and then buries it for a week or more. He will bury a dog for that time, and then go up and devour him.
He will drag a horse or a bullock into the water and hold him under till he is drowned. A favorite, method is to rush anything into the water with its tail, then all is Over. He doesn't always grab with his claws.
Hundreds of cattle and horses here show marks of struggles with alligators. If an alligator grabs a horse which is out of the water, the horse runs away with him, the 'gator holding till the horse's flesh gives way. You next find the horse with a great piece taken out of him, but he usually recovers.
Alligator shooting with a dog tied on the water's edge as a bait, is common sport, The 'gator likes a dog better than anything else, except a Chow. It is cruel sport, but as it is somebody else's dog, Queenslanders don't mind.
There is a black' mission station at Cairns, where the blacks print a newspaper, maintain a band, have water and gas works, and grow everything known to a tropical country. They marry and bring up children, and generally spend a useful life.
The Chinaman is everywhere. Whole streets, like Junction street, with every shop Chinese, are common. In Geraldton [Innisfail] they own the sugar and banana plantation. Their joss-houses face the street. Chinese women and their families are in the streets just like white people.
All the pictures you see of Chinese in China are reproduced here. The big-rimmed hat and the umbrella — they are common. In going to Cairns, we had a special carriage on for them. Even the railway stations and villages bear Chinese names.
I only heard of one Chinese publican who refused to employ a Chinese cook 'What do you chink?' he used to say, 'that chow wants me to give him a job as cook. No fear, me keepee white cook!
Nearly everybody in Geraldton carries a blue umbrella.- When I inquired the reason, they told me the white ants eat up all the black ones. Geraldton is the wettest place in Australia; if not the world. Tney measure the rain by yards,' said a prominent townsman ; 240 inches a year — that is a record— 20 feet. What do you think of it?' 150 inches have already fallen this year. lt was raining all. the time I was there...
Well, I am leaving the north with very great regret. Although I travelled right through inland Queensland— 400 and 500 miles from the coast, there is still much I would like to see. It is all so very, very interesting. I have never enjoyed a trip better.
And it was a revelation. There are cities up here and thousands of people, white, black, yellow, and copper. Every town of any size has its two daily papers. All is reported here in the telegrams in the daily papers of the northern towns.
Every place is a centre, depending on itself. They don't send to Brisbane if they want anything — at least not necessarily. Rockhampton, Townsville, Cairns, Maryborough, Buudaberg-they are all centres.
They think more of Sydney than any other place outside their own towns. . .. The fact that I am from Sydney helps me in business, because they know Sydney can beat Brisbane. Of course, Brisbane is necessarily their political centre hut but necessarily their trading centre.
I have met no one up here from Illawarra, but my word, if a man liked to brave the heat, this is the place. Cairns, has Atherton behind it, 3000ft up on the hills, a place like the scrub country of the Richmond River.
It is still in the primitive state, and likely to undergo a boom like the Richmond River. The climate is beautiful and land cheap. Atherton has railway communication and is about 60 miles from the sea. You mark my words; there will be a big rush as the land is thrown open There is plenty of timber on it and an inexhaustible supply — an Illawarra really in a tropical country.
I forgot to tell you the Barrier Reef is 30 miles from here and runs along the coast for over 1000 miles, consequently there are no breakers of any size along the shores. The water is nearly always smooth.
Picnic parties go out and camp on it for a week or a fortnight. Plenty of fishing, and thousands of turtles. The Japanese fish all along it for beche-de-mer — something that resembles a sausage in appearance, and is dried and eaten — by Chinamen principally
I have posted the old newspaper article above to show what the world was like before political correctness. You will see that minorities were identified by mildly derogatory nicknames but the attitude towards them was amused rather than hostile. What would now be identified as "hate speech" was in fact innocuous. The Anglos and the Chinese just lived their own lives and did so in peace. The area described is the Cairns/Innisfail area of Far North Queensland, Australia, where I was born.
As I was born only 35 years after the above was written, I can recognize the accuracy of most of what is written there. I even remember the Chinese joss-house that he describes in "Geraldton" (now known as Innisfail). When I was a little boy, I occasionally went in there and banged the drum. One day an old Chinese man who was a custodian of the temple caught me doing it. Did he abuse me, chase me or attack me? No. He gave me a mango. Pretty relaxed race relations I think -- JR
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