RAHS Subscriptions: Journals – Vol 110 Pt 1 June 2024 ABSTRACTS

Lieutenant Charles Jeffreys and the Kangaroo: Was he totally unfit for command?

Ian Dodd

Governor Lachlan Macquarie expressed the opinion that Lieutenant Charles Jeffreys was totally unfit for command of the armed Colonial Brig Kangaroo. Earlier scholarly work has not challenged that opinion. This article examines previously unpublished records, mainly from the British Transport Commission, and some aspects of the voyage to New South Wales to determine whether Macquarie’s harsh opinion was justified.

Railway Navvies and Grog Shops 1878–85: Promoting Law, Order and Sobriety through Crown Land Management

Terry Kass

Riotous drinking and hard physical labour have been synonymous with the labouring workforce who provided the raw muscle for constructing public infrastructure during the nineteenth century. As a highly mobile workforce, navvies were difficult to control and the subject of widespread angst by middle-class observers. During the 1880s, in New South Wales, problems arising from heavy alcohol consumption by railway navvies inspired changes to Crown Lands legislation. Generally focused on managing the leasing and alienation of land, Crown Land administration was not aimed at policing public morality. Yet, the need to control access to alcohol for railway navvies initiated changes in Crown Land policy and administration with that objective.

Ion Idriess in the Torres Strait 1927: Headhunting, mass murder and castaway children

Rob Coutts

The inspiration for this paper was a rare book, Mer – Four Gospels, a translation of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John into the Meriam language of the island of Mer in the Torres Strait. The book was published in 1902, after the introduction of Christianity to the Torres Strait in 1871. However, while researching the provenance of Four Gospels, a different book – Drums of Mer by Ion Idriess – became prominent. Drums of Mer purports to describe the pre-Christian Meriam culture of war, violence and head-hunting. Both books are discussed within the context of the island of Mer.


Leonie Bell

Many people are aware of the canvas and tin shacks that were erected by desperate people on the sandhills of La Perouse and Sans Souci during the throes of the Great Depression in the 1930s. Shanty towns such as these have a long history in Australia, particularly in pioneer and gold-mining towns in Victoria and New South Wales during the Gold Rush. These makeshift settlements often housed men in country areas where both jobs and housing were in short supply and times were tough. However, few will have heard of a NSW State Government scheme to house families in a purpose-built tent town during World War I. Canvas Town, sometimes referred to as Calico Town or Tin Town, and later known as Stannumville, was built 3.5 miles (5.6 km) from Sydney, about a mile south of Daceyville. It was constructed just off the western side of Bunnerong Road, between Gardiners Road and Maroubra Bay Road. Oddly enough, it does not appear on maps of the period, which were either printed before its construction or after its demolition. This made its precise location subject to speculation until the discovery of a hand-drawn addition to an existing Parish Map of Botany. This article examines why the government initiated the project, the living conditions in the town, and the reasons for its demise.

Interpreting an Image: George Augustus Robinson’s Yass to Port Phillip Road, 1840–1844

Bruce Pennay

A crude ink-sketch of Merriman, a Waywurru man, shackled around the neck, handcuffed and being dragged forward over uneven ground by an armed mounted policeman, is a graphic representation of the shortcomings of frontier justice in the early 1840s. This ‘Interpreting an Image’ untangles two stories of frontier justice with which the picture is intertwined in the journals of George Augustus Robinson, the Chief Protector of the Aborigines of the Port Phillip district of New South Wales. In doing so, it explains that the road between Yass and Port Phillip was a key part of a new ‘in-between’ frontier opened with the inland pastoral invasion.