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Thomas Petrie

Thomas Petrie (1831-1910), explorer, grazier and friend of Aboriginals, was born on 31 January 1831 in Edinburgh, fourth son of Andrew Petrie and brother of John. He arrived with his parents at Sydney in the Stirling Castle in October 1831 and moved with them to Moreton Bay in 1837.

Educated by a convict clerk, he was allowed to mix freely with Aboriginal children.

He learnt to speak the Brisbane tribal dialect (Turrabul) and was encouraged to share in all their activities. At 14 he was taken on the triennial walkabout to the feast at the Bunya Range.

Accepted by the Aboriginals as a friend, he was in constant demand as a messenger or companion for exploration expeditions. During journeys with his father he gathered a knowledge of surveying and bushcraft and an intimate acquaintance with the Brisbane district and its settlers.

In 1851 Petrie spent six months trying his luck on the Turon goldfields and for five years worked on various fields mainly in Victoria, 'finding only enough gold to make a ring'. After returning to Brisbane, in 1858 he married Elizabeth, sister of James Campbell, hardware merchant.

In the Pine Creek district on the Whiteside run he bought ten sq. miles (26 km²) which he called Murrumba (Good Place). Despite the fears of other white men he was helped by friendly Aboriginals to clear his land and construct his first buildings. He continued to explore widely, his main aim being the search for new timber areas and places for further settlement along the coast.

In 1862 he was the first white man to climb Buderim Mountain, where he explored a stream that became known as Petrie's Creek. He marked a road from Cleveland to Eight Mile Plains so that his squatter friends could transport their wool.

In 1868 he organized an Aboriginal welcome for the Duke of Edinburgh.

When the Douglas ministry opened Queensland's first Aboriginal reserve on Bribie Island in 1877, Petrie became its chief adviser and overseer. The experiment was terminated next year by Palmer largely because Petrie's report on Aboriginal attitudes and activities was not encouraging.

He played little part in politics but was a foundation member of both the Caboolture and Redcliffe divisional boards and for years returning officer for Moreton electorate.

In 1904, his daughter Constance wrote a book called “Tom Petrie's Reminiscences Of Early Queensland”. This book also provides a brief sketch of the early days of the colony of Queensland from 1837, through the eyes of Tom Petrie. He was considered an authority on First Nations people and in this book there is a wide range of interesting and important information about them, including some vocabulary words.

An original first edition copy of this book is available to view in the Redcliffe Historical Collection in shop 12a in Comino's Arcade and a free downloadable pdf file available to download and view at the following LINK:

Excerpts from the book:

Sandy Point (mouth of Pine - north side) "Kulukan" (Pelican)

Scotts Point- "Banda Mardo" (White Clay)

Humpybong - "Warun" (Waroon)

Redcliffe - "Kau-in Kau-in" (Blood -red like blood)"

Redcliffe - "Yura" (Spotted Gum)

Caboolture "Kabul-tur" (place of carpet snakes)

Caboolture (Bribie dialect) "Wonga-dum" (Wongadoom)

Narangba - "Narangba" (small place)

Stony Creek, Narangba "Bulba"


Tom Petrie, in a buggy driven by his daughter Jessie, farewelling troops in the yard at North Pine Railway Station. This photograph was taken in 1899 at the time the North Pine Detachment of the Queensland Mounted Infantry was disembarking by rail for a trip to camp. Some members of this unit formed part of the first contingent to be sent to the Boer War. On the grey horse at the head of the troops is Captain Philip William Grant Pinnock who was in command of the Detachment. Captain Pinnock became Officer Commanding B Company during the Boer War. Pinnock had been the Manager of the Queensland National Bank at North Pine and he married Mary Ellen (Minnie) Petrie, the eldest daughter of Tom and Elizabeth Petrie, in 1884. Photo from the Moreton Bay Library Collection: PRLPC-P1684/15


Petrie died at Murrumba on 26 August 1910, survived by his wife who died aged 90 on 30 September 1926 and by two sons and five daughters of their nine children.

Though Murrumba had been reduced to 3000 acres (1215 ha) the family kept the property until 1952. In 1910 the name of the North Pine district was changed to Petrie in his honour and next year a free-stone monument was erected in the township.

Tom Petrie Memorial in its original location on the corner of Redcliffe Road and Whites Road Petrie. The water trough at the right was connected to a nearby windmill. Although it has been moved three times, the monument is still a landmark in the park adjacent to the North Pine School of Arts. The memorial was unveiled by the Governor of Queensland, Sir William MacGregor, on 15 July 1911. Tom Petrie's epitaph, engraved on a marble tablet set into the sandstone obelisk, reads, in part - Pioneer, Patriot, Philanthropist. Only a few weeks before the memorial was unveiled, the Department of Railways also commemorated Tom Petrie, who had passed away on 26 August of the previous year, by changing the name of North Pine Railway Station to Petrie. Photo from the Moreton Bay Library Collection: PRLPC-P0942


Thomas Petrie is listed on the wall of the Redcliffe Wall of Fame:

A collection of portrait and information honouring the achievements of individuals who have influenced and shaped Redcliffe. The collection is in the Jetty Arcade at 139-141 Redcliffe Parade.

For a complete list of people who appear on the wall click on the following blog post:


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