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Early Days of Humpybong (1860-89) from the diary of Philip Silcock

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

The following appeared in the Queenslander Newspaper in December 1933 and January 1934, and were excerpts from the diary of Philip Silcock with interesting history of Humpybong, and in particular Clontarf.

It describes the history of most of the early settlers, the first school and post office, and the short lived Sugar industry that was present in the 1860s-80s.


Leaves from the Diary of the Late Philip Silcock. (Compiled from the diary by C. R. J. Dahl.)

"THIS is the tale of a pioneer who toiled hard, lived simply, helped his neighbours, who in turn helped him, and observed the sabbath. And the tale is told from his own writings in a diary in which he made entries daily—save on a few occasions when he had a poisoned hand and his wife wrote for him —until he was called to his fathers on August 21, 1917, and even on that day he penned his record of things that mattered to him and to others."

left to right - Mr Philip Silcock (an associate of Dr Thomas Lane Bancroft), Unknown, Mr Tom Petrie, Lord Lamington (Queensland Governor), Unknown. This photograph was taken on 28 May 1900.- From the Moreton Bay Library Collection - MBPS-0006-002

"From 1860 to 1870 there was rapid development in that part of the Humpybong Peninsula extending from Clontarf Point, at the mouth of Hayes's Inlet, along the banks of the inlet to what now is known as Salt-water Creek, on the main road. "

"Mr. C. Kislingbury built a sugar mill at Clontarf and also planted 40 acres with cotton, and Mr. Richard Board grew arrowroot and erected a mill to grind it. The sugar mill attracted a number of farmers, and in 1868 the whole of the point and the land for some considerable distance back was ploughed and under sugar cane; in some places the plough furrows can still be seen."

Mr. J. C. Ham built a house on the top of Clontarf Point; a big fig tree still marks the site, and Mr. J. H. Dodds had a plantation alongside the main road just beyond the present golf links.

John Anderton purchased portions 288 & 289 (40 acres) on the 2nd April 1866.

Charles Kislingbury purchased portions 274, 283 and 290 (123 acres) on 7th Dec.1866.

Augustus Huesman & George Robert Fife purchased portion 284 (42 acres) on 7th December 1866. Paying 41 pounds and 15 shillings.

William John Ward purchased portion 291 & 292 (46 acres) on 1st January 1869

Richard Board purchased portions 275 to 278 & 285 (100 acres) on 18th October 1869.

William Long purchased portions 286 & 287 (40 acres) on 19th October 1869.

William Williams purchased portions 279 & 280 (40 acres) on 29th October 1869.

John Harrop Henzell purchased portion 159 (15 1/2 acres) on 24th April 1883.

"The means of communication with Brisbane were by horse overland or by sailing cutter across the Bay. This cutter was navigated by Mr. G. J. Woolfe, who landed passengers and freight at a small jetty just inside Hayes's Inlet.

The journey from Brisbane down the river, round Luggage Point, and across the Bay was long and often uncertain because of weather conditions, and a lady still living in Brisbane, and who sometimes travelled by this boat, can recall one occasion when bad weather necessitated spending the night at Luggage Point, but in the morning, although the weather had not improved; the skipper continued the voyage, and the passengers, who were seasick and wet through, spent a very miserable time. In 1872 the sugar mill failed and was closed, and in 1874 Mr. Philip Silcock, the pioneer referred to, whose diaries contain mention of many names, purchased Mr. Kislingbury property, on which the mill and residence stood, and commenced general farming and dairying. He named his farm Oakwood, and, with his wife, took up his residence there on August 16, 1875. Mr. Richard Board built a place about half a mile from Mr. Silcock's; it was a stone and clay house, and subsequently was covered with ivy, giving it a picturesque appearance. Mr. Board disposed of the house to Mr. E. B. Southerden—and later Mrs. Ward and her son lived in it for some years.

The Silcock diaries:

Mr. Philip Silcock commenced his diary in 1873; he had arrived in Queensland two years earlier from England in the ship Ramsay. A brother —Richard—had gone to Victoria prior to 1871, and later came to Queensland and commenced breeding horses, he was accidentally killed while schooling a horse over hurdles. On his arrival in Queensland Mr. Philip Silcock went to Mr. Porter's farm at Murrarie, where he met the lady whom he sub- sequently married—Miss Anne Porter. Later he worked at a sugar mill at Pimpama. The information in the late Mr. Silcock's diaries has been supplemented by his widow, who, although in her 88th year, is healthy and hearty and in possession of all her faculties. She had her share of hardships of the pioneering days, but faced them with the courage and determination that characterised the people who did so much to develop this State in its earlier days. She can recall much of interest. The first meeting called to consider the obtaining of a school and church was held on August 16, 1875. The first school, under the name of the Humpybong School, was opened in a slab and bark humpy, that also did duty as a church, on February 1, 1876. The first teacher was Mr. Thomas Arkins, who commenced duty on that date but only occupied the position for four months—until May 31, 1876. On July 13, 1876, following a deputation of parents to the Government. Mr. Joseph Elliot commenced duty as schoolmaster, and held the position until March 31, 1878. In the meantime working bees had been formed, and about November 1877 a school was built on the main road about half a mile on the Woody Point side of the cemetery,

a year previously—in 1876—the first post office was established at Mr. Mitchell's residence, which occupied the site now known as Barron's Corner, and mails were conveyed to and from Brisbane once a week by coach. In 1878 a church was built next to the cemetery, and although it was available to any denomination the services for the most part were conducted by Mr. H. I Tubbs. This building was eventually removed, and now constitutes the rear portion of the Congregational Church at Redcliffe. Prior to 1878 divine services were conducted in the slab humpy which stood near the residence of the late Mr. Greenstreet. About 1878 the first direct boat service between Humpybong and Sandgate was conducted by the late Mr. C. Cutts, who had a sailing boat called the "Dairy Maid", which plied from the little bay in front of Mr. C. R. J. Dahl's present residence at Clontarf - boatshed stands there now—to Shorncliffe. Mrs. Cutts, who was a fine stamp of womanhood and is still alive and well, and resides at Indooroopilly, frequently rowed one or more passengers across when Mr. Cutts was absent, for which she received 7/6 or 10/, and sometimes less. How many women nowadays would be courageous enough—and skilful enough—to row an open 14ft. boat from Clontarf to Sandgate and back with a strong north easter or south-easter blowing? Yet Mrs. Cutts did so on many occasions! The late Mr. Silcock was related by marriage to the Tubbs family, whose name was linked with Redcliffe for many years. Like most of the pioneers of those days he was an athletic man, and on one occasion, on arrival in Brisbane from a visit to Ipswich, he found that Wright's coach, which ran regularly to Humpybong, had just left. He was desirous of returning to his home at Clontarf as early as possible, as the baby was sick, so he set off at a run to try to overtake the coach. This he succeeded in doing at Bowen Bridge, induced the driver to wait, ran back to town, hired a cab, journeyed back with his wife and child, and joined the coach. Mr. Silcock was also related to Dr. Clowes, of Albion, and references to him appear at intervals in his diary."

Early Land Owners An official land map issued probably in the late seventies, for it shows an area of 34 acres on the shores of Hayes's Inlet which the late Mr. P. Silcock took up in 1873 or 1874, is of considerable interest. Maps of this nature, of course, showed the original holders of the land—many had received the areas as land grants—but in the late seventies nearly all of these original holders were still living, and their land had not been resurveyed and sold wholly or in part. The whole of names which appear in entries in the diary for the year 1881 include Dr. and Mrs. Ward, French, Duffield, Dr. Hobbs, Tom Cook, Bill Buckley, Mr. and Mrs. Lawn, Hall, Mrs. Bell. Mr. and Mrs. Board, Tutty, Sutton, S. Frazer, Potts, Neal, Pearce, Prentice, Skinner, Landsborough, Miss Florrie Bell (now Mrs. A. C. Boden), Jack Boden, Mrs. Adams, O'Leary, Hay, Dodds, Hobbs, Martin, Yeo, Noble, Grimes, Miss Burnett (who was accidentally shot), Sparkes, Beasley, Joyner, J. H. M'Connel, Collins (Sandgate), Miss Minnie Bell, Mrs. Barron, Hutchinson, Hooker, B. Brooks, Bunton, W. Thorne, Chubb, Hughes, Henzell, Pollard, Duggan, Cutts, M'Donald, Cribb, Thomas Petrie, Deans, and Bright.

Photo of William and Mary Ward who purchased portion 291 (27 acres) and 292 (19 acres) on 1st January 1869. Thomas Ham leased the land in 1869 and began to grow sugar cane there. When Thomas died in March of 1870 the lease was transferred to his wife Mary Jull Collings Ham. She continued the sugar plantation until 1873. The plantation continued to flourish under new management until 1877. It occupied the area of the now present day Golf Course. A sugar mill occupied the area to the North West of the golf course and remains of the mill existed until the mid 1950s when it was covered with filling material.

"On July 5 (1875) he left Ipswich for Humpybong, transacted business in Brisbane, where he stayed for the night, and then went on to Humpybong the next day. He had finished at Pettigrew's on July 1. Occasional visits were paid to Ipswich, and mention is made of Ward Bros., England, H. M'Millan, and D. Carroll. On July 31 he left Ipswich with a dray containing various articles he had bought, and three horses, and stayed for the night at Angstein's, at Oxley. The next night he stayed at Kedron Brook, and the following day reached within two miles of his house at Clontarf, when the dray became bogged, and had to be left there until next day. On August 16 appears this entry: "A meeting was arranged to see about a school and church; nobody attended but Salisbury," On subsequent days these names are mentioned: —Whalen, Anderton, Williams, White (a farmer at Pine River), Snook, Dodds, Cutts, H. I., Florrie, and Annie Tubbs, Jonas, Day, Adsett, Rody Cruise, Cribb (who conducted services at church at Clontarf, as also did H. L Tubbs), and Board. On one trip to Brisbane he bought various articles from Raff, Brookes and Foster, Young, Oliver, Jackson, and Ramsden, and on another occasion from Perry Brothers, Grimes and Petty, Myers, and Campbell."

A photo of Philip and Annie Silcock:

"1876 to 1889. The diary for the first half of 1876 was mostly comprised of brief entries relating to work on the farm and dwelling. Neighbours barbered each other in those days—for that matter they do now in some of the country places,

July 6 there is this entry: "I milked early and rode off to help H. I. Tubbs to cut up and salt his pigs. After dinner he cut my hair and I cut his."

July 11 he wrote: "I rode with Elliott to call upon Copson, Adams, Long, and Cutts to let them know that school would commence on Thursday (July 13). H. I Tubbs came after tea and left a petition for a bridge over the Pine River for me to get signed by some of my neighbours." The school commenced on July 13, and on July 19 a meeting of the school committee was held at Williams's.

An entry on August 11 mentions the names of Crane and Day, presumably residents of Terrors' Creek, and adds: "Took dinner with Mr. and Mrs. French at the Pine River; called upon Stubbins"

On August 16 he drove into town, sold butter and eggs to J. Rode, called on Mr. Lynn at the Survey Office, bought a bag of salt and some groceries from J. Rode, and sold a blue sash for 10/ to Clarke and Treloar.

On December 11 he went to Brisbane and stayed the night at Mrs. Barron's at Kedron Brook, and had his horse shod at Lyons's. Next day he wrote: "I drove into town early. Put my cart up at the Good Templars' Hotel, Edward Street."

The entries in 1877 also were mostly in regard to farm work, but a few mentioned names or matters of interest:

May 28: "A meeting was held at the school. More funds raised, and several men agreed to do work towards erecting the new school house."

July 25: "H. I. Tubbs came in evening, and I paid him 20/ as my second subscription towards erection of school."

July 20: "Started about 11.30 for town. Stayed the night at Wallins' Exchange Hotel. Raynbird was there."

July 27: "Left Wallins' early. Got to Johnson's Hotel about 7.30; had breakfast, and walked up to Lynn's place in Wickham Terrace. Got a bag of sweepings from S. and N. Howes."

August 30: "Saw my wife and baby off from Brisbane by Kluver's coach to Loganholme. Bought some dresses from Grimes and Petty, and pump and pipe from Wake field."

September 15, "Sam Allwood watered his bullocks at my waterhole."

October 1: "I got home just as a very heavy hailstorm began. Some of the hailstones measured more than 9in. in circumference." Incidentally it may be mentioned here that old residents of Brisbane can remember a number of hailstorms in which the hail was in jagged forms the size of a man's fist, and riddled galvanised iron roofs and tanks, killed dogs, goats, and fowls, and in some instances injured human beings who were unable to take shelter.

November 3 an entry appears: "Tea meeting at new school house. I took cart with wife and children, also Allwoods and children." On Saturday, March 2, 1878, Mr. Silcock wrote: "Kislingbury came to begin to take his mill to pieces. I helped him part of the day." During the following week the work of dismantling the sugar mill proceeded. H. I. Tubbs came with bullocks and took away the three pans.

On March 9 "Kislingbury got loaded and started away about sunset."

On March 12 Messrs. Kislingbury and Tubbs took away two rollers, and a few days later presumably completed removing the mill.

On Sunday, March 31, the diarist "rode to church, carrying both children." Subsequent entries mention the following names:—Board (who had an arrowroot mill at Clontarf, Cameron, Lawn, Francis, Simon Fraser, Smart, Williams, C. White (of the Pine), Tom Snook, Bond, Freeman, F. Turner, H. Turner, W. L. Lynn, and Nightingale.

June 10 the steamer Kangaroo "came into the creek" (presumably Hayes's Inlet) with timber and furniture for Mr. Deans and some flour for Mr. Silcock. Several interesting entries read thus:

August 20: "I started for Brisbane about 10 o'clock, called at Tubbs's; took their cart and Florrie and Freddie to town. Ibby rode with me as far as Mr. Cribb's. I left horse and cart at Mrs. Barron's. Slept at Johnson's."

August 21 (Wednesday): "I spent greater part of day at the Exhibition.

Saw Mr. and Mrs. Young, Mr. Ginn, and several Ipswich folk. I walked to the Albion Hotel; slept there." August 22: "Got up early. Walked to Mrs. Barron's, got my horse and cart, and drove to town.m Left Frank's swag at the Cafe de Paris. Afterwards saw the coachman, who said he could not take it until tomorrow. I walked to the Exhibition, got some alfalfa seed, and left town about 3 o'clock. ..." On September 23 "Mr. Landsborough and an other gentleman came." This was Landsborough the explorer.

On October 12 a meeting was held at the school, Mr. Adams being chairman. On October 22 Mr. Garrick addressed the electors in the school house. Preachers on Sundays included Messrs. H. I. Tubbs, Cribb, Millar, and M'Naught."

"Now for the year 1879.

On March 23 something must have gone wrong with his clock, for he wrote: "Joe and I, with wife and children, drove to church; got there just as service was over!" On March 25 the diarist and his brother Joe started for Samford, got as far as Buchanan's, stayed the night there, and continued the journey next morning. "After going considerably out of our road," he wrote, "we reached Mr. Coe's at Samford about 3 o'clock, and spent a very agreeable evening." On April 2 he paid £1/1/ as subscription for "The Queenslander," which in those days, as now, had a particularly good circulation in the country districts.

On April 15 the diarist and his brother Joe started on horseback for Caboolture, and stayed the night at Geddes'. Next day they rode on to the Glasshouse Mountains, "young Pinnock overtook us and rode with us as far as Mooloolah. We had some dinner at Grigors, and stayed the night at Landers'." "Young Pinnock" is now Colonel Pinnock. On several occasions Mr. Silcock imported goods from Great Britain, and this entry on April 26 is interesting: "I sold 196 yards of real Welsh flannel to Grimes and Petty at 2/5, and took their cheque in payment." On various dates these names are mentioned:—Jonas, Cutts, Livsey, Foster, Polly Adams, Mr. and Mrs. Landsborough, M'Nevin (or M'Nevan), J. H. Henzell, C. Hay, Tully, Buchanan, Drew, Wright, Salisbury, Manders and Bailey (both of whom preached occasionally), H. I. Tubbs and Cribb (both of whom frequently conducted divine service), White, Shehan (Pine River), Petrie (Pine River), Richards, Gibbon, Frank Turner, Tutty, Stubbings, Board, Dodds, French, Anderton, Frank Welsh, (at that time of Southport; now member for Pilburra in the Western Australian Parliament), Long, Mockridge (Sandgate), and Captain Mansell."

An animated colourised lithograph from 1888 Picturesque Atlas Of Australia

"NAMES which appear in entries in the diary for the year 1881 include Dr. and Mrs. Ward, French, Duffield, Dr. Hobbs, Tom Cook, Bill Buckley, Mr. and Mrs. Lawn, Hall, Mrs. Bell. Mr. and Mrs. Board, Tutty, Sutton, S. Frazer, Potts, Neal, Pearce, Prentice, Skinner, Landsborough, Miss Florrie Bell (now Mrs. A. C. Boden), Jack Boden, Mrs. Adams, O'Leary, Hay, Dodds, Hobbs, Martin, Yeo, Noble, Grimes, Miss Burnett (who was accidentally shot), Sparkes, Beasley, Joyner, J. H. M'Connel, Collins (Sandgate), Miss Minnie Bell, Mrs. Barron, Hutchinson, Hooker, B. Brooks, Bunton, W. Thorne, Chubb, Hughes, Henzell, Pollard, Duggan, Cutts, M'Donald, Cribb, Thomas Petrie, Deans, and Bright. Two addresses were loose in the diary: Dr. Marks, Carlton, Wickham Terrace, Brisbane, and H. L. Davis, Martin Street, Bowen Terrace. On September 25 (Sunday) the following entry appeared:—"l did not go to church. Quakers held service."

Redcliffe Congregational Church on Brisbane Road. Roofed with shingles.

Photo from the Moreton Bay Library collection: RMPC-100\100056

" On September 29 there was a sale of Margate allotments. On October 6 the diarist helped Mr. Tubbs to erect a tent at Margate, but the work was not finished till next day, when "the sea and wind were rough, preventing the Ministerial party from landing; only Mr. Perkins and a few others landed." Of the remainder of the eighties one must be content to record very few of the entries, for it is with the earlier days that this article is most concerned. Here are the entries: Sunday, February 26, 1882: "I rode to church; my daughter Jinny rode with me. Mr. Cribb raised a disturbance by reading to the congregation a private letter from H. I. Tubbs suggesting that Cribb should read a sermon instead of preaching his own."

April 24, 1882: "M'Donnell and two stonemasons came looking for payable stone for building."

May 4, 1882: "M'Donnell and a stonemason (Scott) came to try the stone in my paddock again. I fetched them and their tools from the sawpit by Williams's, but they left me in the evening, being unsuccessful."

June 30, 1882: "E. Foreman brought me a sewing machine."

"March 25, 1885: "I went to Bishop Hale's sale and bought a side saddle; J. R. Dickson, auctioneer."

April 27, 1885: "I got the old mill chimney down." Other names mentioned include Phillips, Collins, Young, Deagon, Southerden, and Slaughter (all of Sandgate), Shackels, Brooks, Everett, Reebe, Midgley, Dr. Rendle, Klingner, W. Thorne, Potts, Howes, Oxley, Nightingale, Woodroffe, Hamilton, Smith-Forrester, Thompson, Anderson, Sloan, Campbell, M'Culloch, Rode, Prentice, Noble, Petty, Neil, Hinton, Bennett, Warry, Snow, Grey, Morse, Wilson, Mathewson, Birley, Alderson, Curtis, Jordan, M'Cormack, White, Berkeley Taylor, E. Slaughter, M'Leod, D. L. Brown, Seaton, Wright, and Berry (all of Brisbane), and Hughes, Field, Tatham, J. Foote, Gordon, Whitehouse, Larter, Bostock, Stringfellow, Greenham, Hargreaves, Hancock, and Dockett, spring maker (all of Ipswich). In a list of accounts paid and other entries the following names appear: Mott, Mrs. Pollard, Hutchinson (Lutwyche), H. F. MacDonnell, Mrs. M'Culloch, Dr. Rendle, Mrs. Lyons, Rev. J. Sutton, Michael Behan (butcher, South Brisbane), William Stanley, T. Snook, H. O'Loan, Mrs. Jackson, Mrs. Parker, J. Rode (grocer, Wickham Street, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane), William Pettigrew and Son (Brisbane Sawmills, William Street, Brisbane), M'Diarmid, Bellamy, M'Donnell, Klingner, Stoddart, Dick, Mrs. (Dr.) Little, E. B. Southerden, E. B. Southerden jun.; Coward, Collings, O'Connor, Jim. Hyde, W. Clowes, J. Clowes, Martha Clowes, Mrs. Slaughter, Okeden, Robertson, Cottell, Sheldon, G. Corscadden, Randle, May and Dahl, Howartson, Copson, Wakefield, Mrs. Robertson, Bright (North Pine), Mrs. Finucane, Percy Phillips, Perrin, Sorento, Tom Haskins, C. D. Bright, George Watkins, Herbert Phillips, C. A. Brown, Boardman, Unmade, Booker, Hill, Miss Buzacott, Mrs. Ireland, Mrs. Bryden. On March 4 the diarist "got home by the steamer Waterlily, the Garnet being on the slip to be overhauled."

An entry on February 5, 1889, referred to travelling to Southport by Reis's coach, and returning from Southport on February 7 by the steamer President. On March 4 Mr. Silcock at tended an auction sale at Hatchett's Hotel, the auctioneer being G. T. Bell. An event of some Interest in those days was chronicled thus on April 9, 1889: "Went up in the lift at the 'Courier' office." Incidentally, it may be mentioned that the Courier Building was the first building in Brisbane, Government or private, in which a passenger lift was installed.

April 22, 1889, Mr. Silcock attended Duncan's sale of Queen's Beach allotments.

May 15, 1889, the steamer Gneering brought timber to the jetty. The steamer Natone was plying between Brisbane and Humpybong about this time.

September 11, 1889, the diarist wrote: "I went to a sale at Mr. Nesbit's at Russell Street, South Brisbane, and afterwards to a sale at Mr. Judd's, Crest Alto, Breakfast Creek."

Philip Silcock was born on 30th Nov. 1836 in Heacham, Docking, Norfolk, England.

Annie Maria Porter was born on 25th March 1846 in Holborn, Middlesex.

Philip married Annie Maria Porter on 10th Aug 1878.

They had 5 children in 11 years:

Annie Chadwick (1874-1960) Richard, (1877-1935) Joseph (1881-1974) Edward (1881-1974) and Anne Florence (1886-1966)

He was president of the Redcliffe Progress Association when it began in 1890.

He was also a member of the Redcliffe Divisional Board on Feb. 12th 1897 for number 1 subdivision, and elected chairman on 22nd April 1897 and again on March 25th 1898.

Philip passed away aged 80 years, on 21st Aug 1917 in Clayfield, Brisbane.

Annie passed away aged 96 years, on 29th June 1942 at Eagle Junction, Brisbane

They are buried together at the Lutwyche Cemetery - MONUMENTAL-COE3-14A-26

Silcock St in Clontarf is named after the family, and the 1951 Refidex shows it planned to run all the way to Hayes Inlet:

The August 1956 aerial shows Silcock St only running part way off Ave off Elizabeth Ave:

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