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Whelan's Lagoon Humpybong Back Tracks

Updated: Nov 23, 2022

The Brisbane Courier - Saturday 1st May 1926 - Page 19:

"Humpybong Back Tracks.

The Great Lagoons—Some of the Pioneers—One of the Old School. By SPENCER BROWNE.

Whelan's Lagoons.

Many months ago, when writing "A Journalist's Memories," some reference was made to the back tracks, or the little known hinterland of Humpy Bong, and to Whelan's Lagoons. These remarkable lagoons are on the source of Haye's Inlet; they are on the watercourse lying between what is known as the Saltwater Crossing on the road from Petrie to Redcliffe and Narangba railway station, on the North Coast line. It is nearly 45 years since I first saw these splendid sheets of water, having been taken there on a special request from the Deception Bay settlement by two faithful aboriginal shooting and fishing companions, Fred., who was a king of sorts, and Willy. Four of the lagoons are very big, and any one of them, as I reported in 1881, would float the Great Eastern. I asked the blacks how deep the holes were, and the reply was that they did not know. For some reason both Fred. and Willy were reluctant to discuss particulars, and when I spoke of a swim in the beautifully cool fresh water they dissuaded me. The story ran that the blacks would not go into the water because it had no bottom. Dr. Bancroft had first told me of the lagoons, and when I mentioned the feeling of the blacks he said he knew of no reason for it unless perhaps it was that the original Australian did not like deep water. More probably, he thought, there had been some accident out that way, or some tragedy. The Duggan brothers and Mr. Sparks, the father of the present owner of Deception Bay property, said there certainly was a belief that the lagoons were bottomless, or, in other words, that they were too deep for ordinary sounding. That suggested a trial, which was made by means of a line run across a lagoon, then a little loop in the middle and a running line through it with a sinker. I found bottom at from 22ft. to 30 ft., well out in the pools. It is interesting to remember that when I went out to shoot at Whelan's Lagoons the blacks would not go with me. They said it was too far. Probably "Jimmy" Salisbury, a well-remembered lad, who was often a shooting companion, went with me. I have shot ducks on the lagoons and twice had to swim in for them, but didn't like it. Being invincibly superstitious, I had the feeling that the business was uncanny, and I was glad to get out. When I told Fred. and Willy that I had gone into the water after ducks they had no observations to offer.

The First Lagoon. I'm not sure of the condition of the road now for wheel traffic, but horsemen may easily follow Dr. Bancroft's.I speak of the original Dr. Joseph Bancroft track down from the Gympie-road to Deception Bay, and practically cross the lower end of the first big lagoon. This road was in common use 30 years ago by the settlers near Dr. Bancroft's place, on Deception Bay, and by the late Mr. A. B. Webster, who used to drive down from Brisbane to his comfortable place on the shores of the wide, shallow bay. Dr. Bancroft used to rattle along from and to town with the spanking pair which he always drove. Now-a-days, of course, the way is from Petrie along the new Anzac Avenue, until reaching the long road just beyond the Salt Water bridge across the upper water of Hayes's Inlet; and then turn sharply to the left, practically at right angles, along the sandy bush road to Deception Bay. From where the old road crosses the end of the first lagoon to Deception Bay (Bancroft's) is between two and three miles, and the track used to be very good, though sandy, but now it is overgrown mainly with oak. It is a very interesting trip up the course of the lagoons to Narangba, through what was known as Smith's, or the Ellensville property. The formation is sandstone, with the gravel of the coal measures, and the, lagoons are fed largely by soakage in the dry weather, through there is a considerable catchment area. Already the Redcliffe Shire Council has inspected the lagoons as the probable source of the water supply for the great group of towns which inevitably will arise along the eastern and southern front of the Humpybong peninsula, extending from Reef Point at Scarborough to Clontarf on Bramble Bay. In passing, it may be said that the shire would do well to secure the freehold of the lagoon area while it may be had at a small figure. Later on the price will go up and settlement will spoil the place in so far as an unpolluted water supply is concerned. The principal settler there now is Mr. Kinsella, who is dairying on one of the few fertile patches of loamy ridge between Dr. Bancroft's old place and the lagoons. The bulk of the country is poor and sour, and we used to reckon that stock would not live on it all the year round if it were not for the dogwood, which is a good edible tree. I don't know what the value of the country is now, but when it passed from the hands of the Ellensville Syndicate to the E., S., and A. Bank, about 1886, it might have been bought very cheaply. It was, I think, in 1890 that the bank offered the whole thousand acres to me, including the lagoons, for £250. The property was bought by my old friend, the late Mr. William Quinn, the well-known conveyancer, and he sold part of it pretty quickly, but how the balance of the area stands I know not.

People on the Back Tracks. One finds the bearers of old names still out there on the back tracks of Humpybong. The Whelan family long ago went to other and I hope more fertile fields, and the Duggan brothers, a splendid pair of honest, honourable, and industrious pioneers, have gone to their rest. They lived, when I knew them first, on the Brisbane-Redcliffe road, and some splendid old trees today mark the site of their old home on what we know as Duggan's Lane. The Duggans were the uncles of the well-known Coleman family, one of whom is Mrs. O'Shea, whose husband was, before moving to Caboolture, a Redcliffe Shire Councillor and a storekeeper. Another of the family soldiered with me years ago in the old Queensland Mounted Infantry, a smart, well educated lad, who soon secured promotion. Like some other of the best of our mounted infantry, he secured appointment to the mounted police, and was later well known and esteemed as Inspector Coleman. The Duggans and Colemans were a fine type and there were others like them in the Humpybong hinterland in the old days. The Sparks family also lived on the Brisbane-Redcliffe road when I first knew them, but moved to a charming home bang on the edge of Deception Bay, while the Duggans and the Colemans moved on to the lagoon area. The Sparks property is still in the family, and though part is unfenced there is a warning to trespassers. That, we may take it, is mainly directed to timber pirates. Humpybong has always been pestered by timber pirates. Some time after I had bought the Hobbs Estate, some 1400 acres, in about 1911, I was riding along at the back of the old-man ti-tree swamp near the eastern side of Deception Bay when I came to a newly-fallen gum tree. A fire merrily blazed quite near, the billy was just on the boil, the tea canister and the sugar in were handy, and a supply of nice mutton, with scone loaf and butter. I waited and coo-eed, but no one came, so I made the tea, cut some loaf and mutton, and had quite a good lunch. Then I lighted the pipe of peace, coo-eed again and again, without reply, and later on wended my way to Scarborough. A few days later I met a couple of old friends, who, of course, would not piratically take a bit of timber under any circumstances. We looked at each other, and grinned. My only observation upon recent events was: "I enjoyed the luncheon very much, and the scone loaf was jolly good." Tactfully one of my friends got away from dangerous ground by asking: "What became of that pony Jester your missus used to drive in the tandem lead?" Of course, we then talked horse, and parted on most friendly terms. When next I was on the back tracks the log had disappeared. One of the Old School. Last week, in the course of my annual stay at Humpybong, I went out on one of the back tracks, looking up a few old friends. One of them was Mrs. Adams, the widow of Mr. John Adams, very well known and respected pioneers of the peninsula. The picture of Mrs. Adams with the eldest of her great-grandsons is given to-day. She is a very sweet old lady, aged 87, but bright and cheery, and with the keenest of memories. Born at Stoke Newington, in England, she married early, and came to Queensland with her husband and took work, Mr. Adams at £1 a week, and Mrs. Adams at 10/ a week, without rations. They were young, and desired to succeed in their new country, and, as the good lady says, "They were very happy days." Mr. Adams was the first to run a boat across the Bay from Woody Point to Sandgate, and the boat, by the way, was one which some sailors, deserting from their ship, had left on the beach about Scott's Point. Mr. Adams was employed as driver of the engine of the sugar mill on Noble's, now McCrystal's, property for sugar cane was grown on the rich lands lying between the Brisbane-Redcliffe road and the upper waters of Hayes's Inlet. I well remember some of the old machinery of the mill lying out in the open some 44 years ago, and probably it is there to-day. It is a coincidence that Mrs. Adams now lives nearly opposite, on the site of what was the Redcliffe Post Office in 1881, with her daughter, Mrs. Boardman, and her son-in-law. Mr. Boardman is dairying, and has a very comfortable home, with a good wife and a big family. Indeed, Mr. and Mrs. Boardman are grandparents, and I knew them when they were youngsters. Probably Mr. Boardman is a native of the district, for I remember his parents on the road back towards Petrie very many years ago, and they later moved to Woody Point, a fine family of sturdy Queenslanders. Mr. Adams took round the petition for the establishment of the Redcliffe Post Office, for when that place began to move it was rather too much to expect people to tramp back three miles into the bush for their mails. Did Mr. and Mrs. Adams make a lot of money, and become prominent socially? I don't think so; but they gave much to Queensland. Their legacy was 10 children, of whom eight survived. Mrs. Adams had to reckon up carefully, and call in the assistante of her daughter, Mrs. Boardman, and her tall, pretty granddaughter—the family had always good looks—to get at the number of descendants. Grandchildren number 43, and great-grandchildren 36, "and still arriving." Surely that is something for which Australia should be grateful and proud. It was a great pleasure to see the dear lady again with her sweet smile and her happy heart, and with her travelling chair, a handsome wheeled contrivance, bought for her by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren on her last birthday. This is one of the heroines of Queensland settlement, one of the splendid band of pioneers. The back tracks and their people are always of interest, and sometimes inspiring."

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