Land Commission 1888
Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912), Monday 5 March 1888, page 2
THE LAND COMMISSION ON KANGAROO ISLAND.
[By our Special Reporter.] [compare this report with the one following it, written by a more responsible reporter.]
In pursuance of its work the Land Commission, having held lengthy sittings in Adelaide and having generally invited evidence, on Thursday night last commenced one of its several projected trips in the pursuit of information among agricultural and pastoral settlers. Through an invitation to representatives of the Press we are enabled to furnish the subjoined notes of the visit paid by the Commission to Kangaroo Island: —
Leaving town by the 9 40 p.m. train the following party of gentlemen reached the Semaphore to join the s.s. Musgrave, placed at the disposal of the Commissioners for conveying them to Kingscote, or more correctly speaking, Queenscliffe, namely—The Hon. the Commissioner of Crown Lands, the Hon. W. Copley, Messrs. Krichauff, Holder, and Burgoyne. and the Secretary to the Commission (Mr. Derrington). Mr. Giles (the Chairman), Mr. Moule, and Mr. Howe were prevented accompanying the party by pressing engagements. By invitation Mr. H. E. Downer, M.P. for Encounter Bay, joined the party, Mr. Hussey, his colleague, sending an apology for absence on account of indisposition. The heartiest of all Commodores of launch fleets, Mr. Jagoe, speedily conveyed the party aboard, and the Musgrave, with moderate steaming, wended its way adown the Gulf under a pleasant sky and with great present comfort to the passengers. Captain Clare proved a most courteous and pleasant master of the after ceremonies, and it was not long ere ambitious statesmen, inquisitive pickers-up of unconsidered trifles (commonly called reporters), and ancient and modern mariners were alike, with more or less success, wooing balmy sleep. But that last cup of cold water, or ounce of lobster salad, or uncommonly bad tobacco, scarcely seemed to agree with some of these at a somewhat later hour. It was not the motion of the vessel," not a bit of it," but oh! the unpleasant suggestions worn on a few unhappy faces.
When early morning set up its claims as part of another day the steamer was found to have arrived at Cape Jervis, and the Musgrave lost its only lady passenger, who proved to be on her way with her husband to her new home, that most cheerful of all solitudes, Cape Jervis Lighthouse. There was a considerable consignment of household stuffs and kitchen dieties [sic] in the hold, and these being discharged into boats and conveyed ashore the unquiet persisting screw again churned the stern waters until Queenscliffe was reached at 9.45 a.m. Friday. Has breakfast been mentioned? Nay? How ungrateful! It was excellent and enjoyable to nearly all; alas ! It was less than a name to — . Hold! there shall be no breach of the confidences of tiered friendship whilst this writer holds to the remains of his ancient but stumpy quill [thankfully he no longer does. -Ed.].
The noble jetty at Queenscliffe was adorned with a truck, a pile of timber, and at least five inhabitants— aboriginal and imported. There were others seen hastening from the scrub to meet the august party of visitors, but, sad to say, there was no salvos of guns to greet the representative of the majesty of Government, and there was no Mayor to besplash and to be besplashed with addresses and compliments of doubtful value. The decorations worn by the large contingent of the population then and there present were the best and prettiest possible—all of them signs ot the ruddiest health. The little ones looked with awe upon first about 5 ft. 10 in. of well-shaven Parliamentary representation of the Encounter Bay variety; about 30 feet of Land Commission (including a potential 6 ft. 2 in, of administration); and lastly, about 6 feet of Secretary. Soon special signs were not wanting that there was a grievance astir somewhere on Kangaroo Island, and full demonstration was obtained when presently, in the large room at Anderson's hotel, the Commission sat, and farmer after farmer went in with doleful face and tale to match. From the gossip outside it could be easily seen that an "experience meeting" had been held and notes compared. The descriptions of loss, failure, and hardship were "as like as two peas," or as the melodies of the Fisk Jubilee Singers. The song ran—There has been a small success at the outset in running a few sheep and in wallaby hunting, and then a farming mania had seized upon these quiet pastoralists, the contagion having spread from the mainland—that greyish blue line of hazy mist over in the horizon eastwardly. Following that there was a monotonous recitative assertion of terribly small crops, wheat failure, barley failure, oat failure, and takeall in glorious plenitude. Next tune was one of confession—sung in minor key—that the Government had not been paid rent or interest or instalment, as the case might happen to be; and then a candid, robust, and not very agreeable chorus that all the farmers on Kangaroo Island were ruined, and would be only too glad to get away if they had the means to go with; aye, even at the sacrifice of the freeholds achieved. True, these pieces of real property were somewhat indebted to concluding mortgagees, and might not be worth the amount advanced upon them. But there was a noble readiness to sacrifice—a procedure in which possibly it might be found there were two participants, one on either side the bargain! " After labour refreshment." Host Anderson acquitted himself excellently, aided by a buxom and obliging young representation of the hostess; and then there must needs be a visit to the country that had been described so dolefully, so that the Commissioners might see " with their own eyes" all the abomination of desolation that bordered on Nepean Bay, the Bay of Shoals, and Cygnet River.
The while they are gone let us glance round at Queenscliffe. Prettily situated, in ample scrub, on an acclivity that makes a glance backwards most pleasant, it consists of the large and commodious hotel before mentioned, a considerable boarding-house for summer visitors, a police station, a telegraph establishment, a Church of England schoolroom (used lor "'services"), and a few cottages. To the left, looking seaward, may be noted the old settlement of Kingscote— the old Government township Queenscliffe being the outcome of one very brilliant private speculation—and beyond that the melancholy looking piles of the first jetty ever erected in South Australia, and for which the colony is indebted to the South Australian Company. Venerable progenitor of a large brood of more or less useful jetties (so many of which claim paternity of Mr. Patrick Boyce Coglin), let this apostrophe canonize thy memory as the cockle's coat thy sides. More might be written of the delights of Queenscliffe and neighbourhood; its lovely climate; the multitude of its sharks—each with a never-failing appetite—and the sleepiness of its solitudes ; but we wisely forbear, leaving to fortunate visitors in summer months the luxury of exploration.
Hieing on board, the well-spread table testified to the superlative excellencies of the thoughtful steward, and a tiring day was followed by a lovely night's rest; not a thought of Broken Hill shares, fabulously high in price, or receding Souths or Centrals, or the host of small prospectuses, more suggestive of fat Secretaryships than fat dividends. When the returned wanderers told all their tale of exploration in the interior, it became evident that nature had never made up her mind to entertain agriculturists in that district. To them unkind, it was doubtful to whom she was inclined to give welcome. Most certainly none of those who had wooed her had found either favour or help. Sterility everywhere, save for the everlasting and unkillable "narrow-leaf" the simple islanders [sic] have not advanced the description to a scientific nomenclature, and neither surface water nor any hope anywhere! The men who had taken up the land to cultivate spoke dolefully of having cut, rolled down, burned, and otherwise destroyed this wonderful evergreen, but always it would rise Phoenix like from ashes, looking reproachfully, but with immovable steadfastness at its sworn foes.
On Saturday morning the Musgrave steamed across to Christmas Cove, near neighbour to Hog Bay. Here Flinders spent an exploratory Christmas with his crew and an abounding company of kangaroos, the which were so numerous and tame that his men, tired of shooting, resorted to clubbing, the unsophisticated marsupials [sic] wondering the while that men were so much more ferocious than wild animals. At this lively watering-place, called Penneshaw, the several inhabitants were wrought into a state of unwonted excitement by the appearance of a number of white men from an unknown mainland; and as the news spread the sun - dried and badly weathered sons of toil slowly, with dismal cheerfulness, gathered to meet the Commissioners. The schoolhouse, with its primitive appliances, became, by the kindness of the gentle schoolmistress, the chamber of the inquisition, and then " the oldest inhabitant" and sundry other well-preserved specimens presented themselves with their views of the iniquities of the land system, and of the causes of the difficulties which attended their efforts to make farming profitable. Among the better preserved fossils [sic] was that ancient mariner Bates, who from a birthday dating back into an old century, had managed to build up a romantic history and no less Munchausen-like reputation. His tale has been often told, including connection with the Royal Navy, with the Warrior as an A.B. seaman, with a prison-ship bound for Sydney, with a sealing expedition to Kangaroo Island in 1823, with a life generally of adventure, checked by rum at £3 a gallon and tobacco 10s. per lb., and so on. To-day the ancient Bates exists in a half-mummified condition [sic], with a remnant of his old weaknesses left, narrowed down to tobacco principally, and a certain amount of domesticity secondarily.
But to the Commission. It sat with its accustomed dignity and composure in the little schoolhouse, which, by-the-way, overlooked the cove, and sometimes looked as if paved with sapphire blue, edged in with grey rocks or boulders. And one after another came the farmers and pioneers, their revelations amounting to a repetition of the views embodied in resolutions passed at a public meeting held on November 5 last on the island, and subsequently conveyed per memorial to Government. Of course they should have become tranquil, these restless public spirits, when the memorial, which was to set the whole land system right, had found its way to some snug Crown Lands Office pigeonhole; but, alas! they were not. Their confidence in memorials was rudely shaken when they discovered that the changes had not come, and that prosperity did not flow directly their way when they had taken so much trouble to put the Crown Lands Commissioner right. And so they now mustered bravely. Suffice it to say there was but one opinion—vide the aforesaid resolutions (which were published about the date mentioned)—the land was too dear, and our land laws must be made more liberal. If they were made more liberal, then it might be possible to make a living; if not, there would be an exodus, and the cruel Pharaoh (the Government) would find himself in the wrong box. When it was suggested that liberality had been carried to its extremest extreme by the farmers themselves, in the fact that so many of the complainers and protestors had paid no rent for several years, and that therefore it could not be the rent which had contributed to their non-success, there was no such a thing as a nonplus. The point was waived, as having nothing to do with the question, and the old wail was set up —liberality, ruin, exodus! Whilst chatting with representative men it could be easily elicited that land nationalization and perpetual leasing were regarded as the most absurd theories, and that no true-born Briton could possibly entertain the idea of working on soil that he could not some day make his own fee simple. And that idea was held by many who, burdened with debt and still struggling for a foothold, acknowledged that they had neither hope, nor intention of completing the purchase of the land they occupied.
Altogether there were the following witnesses who gave the Commission the help of their evidence:—At Queenscliffe— Messrs. P. T. Bell, of Wisanger; J. W. Daw, T. Northcott, J. S. Evans, and Martin Tilka, all of Cygnet River; and A. C. Burgess, of Nepean Bay; and at Penneshaw (Hog Bay) —Messrs. T. Willson, sen., David Buick, E. S. Bates, jun., and W. Howard, all of Hog Bay district, and E. S. Bates, sen., of Grassy Flat. [This list is incomplete. See the article from a second reporter, below.]
Awaiting the return of the s.s. Musgrave, which had gone on Marine Board business to Antechamber Bay and Cape Jervis, the members of the Commission visited Hog Bay proper, where some disported their manly limbs among the rocky boulders in search of geological and mineralogical specimens, and others aimed at the accumulation of a wholesale supply of cockles. All of them gathered round the weather-worn relic left by Baudin, the French sailor, who was exploring this region in the very early days of this century. The boulder which appears to be a micaceous slate, marks the site of a freshwater spring, and bears the following inscription:—" Expedition pour decouvrie par le Commandant Baudin sur le Geographe 1803." The fear is that the weather will soon efface the inscription, and it has been suggested that the Government should take steps to ensure the preservation of a relic that will some day be regarded as of high interest. Along the margin of this little bay there appears to be several freshwater springs, which, so far as Kangaroo Island is concerned, are very rare luxuries. Whilst gossiping about the nomenclature given to some of the prominent geographical features there was explained the otherwise singular circumstance (which must have been often noticed) that the coastline on the north of the island had English names whilst the southern coastline had French designations. It was stated that whilst Flinders was engaged in a voyage of discovery on the one side of the island the French Commander was at work on the other, neither of them being aware of the fact that they were both so engaged. They were, indeed, very much astonished when they encountered in " Encounter" Bay, and that amicably, though the English and French nations were respectively maintaining a belligerent attitude and challenging each the other to "come on."
John and Frances Buick
Presently re-embarking on the Musgrave the party made the acquaintance of the American River in the afternoon, professedly to fish " the happy hours away." It may be said that the fish had a good time of it, but the fishers had not. An excursion was planned to visit Mr. Buick's garden, half a mile away from the anchorage, and this proved the most attractive and enjoyable feature of the whole trip. Accounts had been given of abundance of fruity and of a fine garden; but these statements were regarded as little bits of that poetry which owes its birth to Parliamentary licence. We were in fabled regions, therefore there must be allowance of fable. But to our utter astonishment more than all was told was true! The garden indicated natural fertility and thorough and intelligent cultivation, and the fruit-trees were a marvel. The writer has seen hundreds of orchards, but never saw a more vigorous growth, healthy development, or magnificent fruitage. And the fruit was as luscious as it looked. There were apples in great variety and excellent in kind, pears, and mulberries, each growing splendidly. The grapes were a poor crop and much damaged by birds, the "silver-eye" variety principally. The peaches and the apricots were all gone, but the trees themselves gave evidence of a perfect absence of disease and reliable bearing. Other things there were to excite admiration, including tomatoes, watermelons, chicory, French beans, &c., &c. All of these pronounced a verdict of capability in favour of the soil and climate of this region. Mr. Buick himself—a fine specimen of a sturdy, self reliant, and industrious man, now well advanced into mellow age—told us of his early settlement, and his immediate attempt at planting fruit-trees. He pointed out healthy trees that he had planted with his own hands some thirty years before, and now in full bearing, over-laden indeed; and indicated his opinion that there many parts of Kangaroo Island where similar attempts would be followed by similar success. But, of course, there must be patient, plodding industry. He was courteous enough to invite us into his cottage, which was a picture of rustic neatness and comfort; and there we saw the presiding genius, who had toiled side by side with her husband for over a quarter of a century and aided him in rearing a large, a prosperous, and industrious family. In truth she was a comely old dame, who bore Nature's own impress of high-class womanliness.
Afterwards returning to the steamer laden with votive offerings of fruit liberally bestowed upon us by Mr. Buick, we speedily realized that a safe anchorage in American River was infinitely preferable to tossing about outside, for the weather became very stormy, and we were all glad we were so safely bestowed. By daylight the following morning the Musgrave steamed out and made the homeward passage in excellent time, enabling the party to catch the train at the Glanville Station which landed them in Adelaide shortly before 3 p.m., without accident or loss of time, and with a large quantity of work achieved.THE LAND COMMISSION ON KANGAROO ISLAND. (1888, March 5). Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912), p. 2 (SECOND EDITION). http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article204446448
This more responsible report was filed by a different reporter from a rival newspaper:
South Australian Weekly Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1881 - 1889), Saturday 10 March 1888, page 6
THE LANDS COMMISSION AT KANGAROO ISLAND.
[By our Special Reporter.]
Of the millions of acres of Crown lands in the colony there are few that are more a terra incognita to the bulk of our colonists than the island which every new arrival perceives from the vessel's deck as she sails or steams through Backstairs Passage. Though distant from the main land only some eight or nine miles, and although being the first place that was settled upon by the earliest comers, Kangaroo Island is as little known comparatively as many places in the interior. From the time when it was visited by the French expedition in 1803 up till 1828, when George Bates and his companions took up their abode there, the island was nothing more than the home of the festive marsupial whose name it bears, and the seals, emus, and other native animals and birds. Since that time it has gradually obtained a limited population of settlers, and portions of it have been divided up into squatting runs. Some 11 years ago, however, the Government caused the island to be surveyed and thrown open for selection, and then it was that a large influx of population took place, and big prices were given for choice blocks of land in the best parts of the island. Amongst those who took up land at that time were a number of farmers from Yankalilla and other places on the mainland who had made money by farming, and knowing the salubrity of the climate on Kangaroo Island and the favorable rainfall (from 20 to 23 inches per annum), they believed the soil must be good enough to yield them a better livelihood than they could obtain up north. They accordingly selected either in the hundreds of Dundas, Menzies, Haines, or Cassina, and removed to their new abode with their families. Having accumulated from a few hundreds to in some instances two or three thousand pounds of capital, the new settlers began to make themselves comfortable by building substantial houses of brick and limestone, and making many other improvements about their homesteads. Then they cleared or burned the scrub and put in crops, and the first season or two rewarded their industry with fair results, but soon a common enemy made his appearance, and the deadly "narrow-leaf " destroyed their hopes and brought many of them to destitution. Bad seasons might have been met with cheerfulness and perseverance, but the "narrow-leaf" and kindred pests were "too many" for the settler, and he at length had to appeal to Government for relief. With his capital expended, and no prospect of a better future either for himself or his children, the islander has indeed a poor look out.
The Lands Commission appointed to enquire into the working of the present Act determined upon investigating for themselves the condition of the settlers, and the Governor Musgrave was therefore chartered to convey them to their destination, the party consisting of the Commissioner of Crown Lands (Hon. Jenkin Coles), the Hon. Wm. Copley, M.L.C., Messrs. F. W. Holder, M.P., T. Burgoyne, M.P., and F. E. H. W. Krichauff, M.P., accompanied by the secretary (Mr. E. H. Derrington). Mr. H. E. Downer. M.P., one of the members for the district of Encounter Bay, was also present when the party reached the Semaphore shortly after 10 p.m. on Thursday, March 1, Mr. Jagoe ran the commissioners over to the steamer, and at 11 o'clock the anchor was weighed, and the voyagers sought their respective couches. The night being calm Captain Clare made a slow and steady passage to Cape Jervis, where we arrived at daybreak, and put on shore the household belongings of the new lighthouse keeper.
Then we steered for Queenscliffe, and arrived there about 9.30 am. The appointment with witnesses had been made for 10 o'clock, and promptly to time the commissioners commenced their duties in the large room of Anderson's Hotel. The residents of the island mustered in pretty good force, and amongst those who were present or represented were Messrs. J. Daw, J.P.; T. Northcott and Tilka, of Cygnet River; C. Calnan, of Lockwood ; T. Price, P. T. Bell, K. Nash, and Tochland, of the Gap ; A. Reeves, sen., G. Reeves, and J. Melville, of Shoal Bay ; D. Chapman and S. Buck, of Point Morrison ; R. Snelly, Hamilton. sen,, Hicks, Whittle, Mitchell, and G. Turner, of Emu Bay; W. Jones, W. H. Jones, and R. P. Jones, of Brownlow; Paltridge,of Wisanger; H. Price and Burgess, of Beaconsfield ; and J. S. Evans, Williams, and others, of Queenscliffe. Several of these gentlemen were examined by the commissioners, who held their enquiry with closed doors ; and while the witnesses were giving their evidence I strolled round the place and obtained some information about
QUEENSCLIFFE AND ITS SURROUNDINGS.
The village of Queenscliffe is pleasantly situated on the north-west side of Nepean Bay, and about a mile from Kingscote. The latter place only consists of two or three private dwellings, and some good land held under lease from the South Australian Company; but the former is the more modern place, and boasts of a jetty, telegraph and post-office, police-station, a boardinghouse, two stores, a school, which is used as a church on Sundays, several private dwellings, and Anderson's hotel, which is a roomy and comfortable hostelry. The jetty is complained of as being about 60 feet too short, as the steamer Comrie when alongside has been detained through going aground, and the Musgrave was anchored more than a quarter of a mile out. At the land end of the jetty were stacks of sleepers brought down from the saw-mills on the Cygnet River, and intended for the railway beyond Hergott. These sleepers appeared to be of excellent quality, those cut from the sugargum especially being solid and close-grained. This industry was established here at the instance of Mr. Brown, the Conservator of Forests.
Across the bay can be discerned the entrance to American River, where another industry has been established by Mr. Shand, but which is now known as the Kingscote Fish Preserving Company. Away to the left beyond Morrison's Point we have a view of Backstairs Passage and the mainland in the distance, with Cape Jervis as the nearest point of the coast. About two miles to the right of Queenscliffe is the small township of Brownlow, near where the Cygnet River runs into the bay. This is a handsome stream for several miles inland, bordered with trees, and nearly as wide as the Port River; but it shallows in summer, and ceases to run above Northcott's place, but there are waterholes here and there in its course for nearly 20 miles into the interior. A dam has been placed across it near Daw's farm to keep the tide from rising into it, so that above the dam the water is fresh, and used by the settlers for their stock. The rise and fall of the tide is about six feet. If the sharks were not so numerous there would be excellent bathing, but swimmers have to be careful how they venture beyond the more secluded nooks that can be found in different places along the beach. Capital fishing is obtained from the jetty, as whiting are found there in abundance, and the inhabitants are very glad to avail themselves of this food supply, fresh meat being often scarce.
Fresh water was also very scarce at one time, and had to be brought in boats from Point Marsden, 12 miles away, but there is now a good well at Kingscote in Offshoal Bay, and there are tanks at the hotel and some of the other houses for storing rainwater. Lime-stone abounds on the surface, and is utilised for building purposes and road-making, although there is a natural quarry of broken metal at Kingscote which is a curiosity in its way. The township of Queenscliffe has been surveyed and laid out in streets and terrace sites, Chapman's terrace having a fine sea frontage from which a spacious and picturesque view is obtained. The terraces, however, are yet in embryo. Red Banks is the name given to the cliffs on the opposite side of the bay in the hundred of Hains.
The climate of Kangaroo Island is wonderfully salubrious, and Queenscliffe is the place where a sanatorium should be established. The air is clear, fresh, and invigorating, and after the hottest days of summer the nights are cool, and the residents sleep under blankets. Good shooting can be obtained on the swamps, where wildfowl are numerous, and at certain seasons schnapper are to be found in the bay. A more rare and curious fish—the nautilus— also finds its way into the bay when certain winds prevail at this season of the year, and on the morning of our arrival Trooper Withall had been down to the beach at daybreak and captured about a dozen of these delicate creatures, whose shells are fantastically pretty, and would form chariots for Queen Mab and her fairy tribe. The trooper, by-the-way, is a most useful official in the island, as his duties are multifarious, and he has a vast tract of country to travel over in the performance of his various offices.
There are some choice spots of land in the neighborhood of the town-ship, but for the most part it consists of scrub, in which the mallee, the prickly acacia, the wild tobacco plant and the narrow leaf strive for supremacy, but the narrow leaf very nearly succeeds in choking its opponents. Where the best patches of land are to be found they are utilised for growing barley, of which the sample is very good, and 29 to 25 bushels per acre can be obtained in favorable seasons. But the area in which this occurs is very small, and the experiment of wheat-growing has resulted in failure, as besides takeall and rust, and salt rising in the soil, the narrow leaf grows up and covers the land like stinkwort. If this be burned off one season it grows all the stronger the next year, and nothing but grubbing will prevail with it, and even then it can not be exterminated. Let even so small a portion of root be left in the ground the plant will spring again and spread, so that it is ever present and all absorbing.
Sheep and cattle do moderately well on some of the larger farms or runs held by Messrs. Harper, Kinch, and others, but large sums of money have been lost on some of the stations through failure of grass. Originally there was hardly a blade of grass to be seen on the island, and large tracts of country in the interior are almost sterile, broken ironstone and granite alternating with the scrub. Wallaby snaring was a source of profit to the farmer until they became too scarce, The skins sold well in this market, and the flesh furnished the setter's family with meat, which is described as being equal to lamb. A few cows are kept here and there for dairying purposes, and fowls would do well were it not for the iguanas, who are very numerous and are fond of eggs, But the iguana sometimes falls a victim to his depredations and is then converted into oil, which is a specific for rheumatism. A quantity of mallee firewood is shipped from Queenscliffe, Brownlow, and Shoal Bay, and grain is also shipped in ketches from the latter place, which is most convenient to farmers on the Emu Bay side of the island. This is a very safe harbor, and boats can sail at any time and also have good holding ground when at anchor.
The commissioners sat until lunchtime, and after host Anderson had provided an excellent repast, Messrs. Daw, Northcote, Bell, Florence, and Reeves provided vehicles, in which the commissioners were driven round to obtain
A LOOK AT THE COUNTRY.
Other farmers followed on horseback, and the unusual spectacle of such a cavalcade caused no little surprise to the occupants of houses by the roadside along the telegraph track. A main road has been cleared through the centre of the island and made in places with limestone, but has been badly cut up by the teams carting sleepers from the sawmills. Taking & short cut up a very dusty track through the scrub we came upon some working men's blocks at the back of Queenscliffe, which had been recently taken up and where the process of clearing was going on. Our route then lay towards Daw's, and as we passed farm after farm ample evidence was afforded us of the ravages caused by the terrible infliction known as the narrow leaf. On either hand in the scrub it grew to the height of ordinary trees until we came suddenly to a holding from which it had been cleared. Here wheat had been sown, and when the crop had been gathered in, giving a yield of 3 or 4 bushels to the acre, the narrow leaf had made its appearance again and grown 2 or 3 feet high before the ground could be prepared for cropping again. Fallowing appeared to be out of the question, as allowing the ground to lie idle was simply giving it over to the common enemy. Thus year after year would the farmer have to face the ordeal of getting rid for the time being of this pest, which grew faster than his crop, and which being reaped with it gave a depreciative flavor to the wheat.
On one farm was a well built five-roomed house. The owner had 250 acres, upon which he had expended £500, and finding he could get no crops sold out the lot for £20, and left the island. The new proprietor has worked for a season, and his harvest this year he estimates to be worth at the most a £10-note, and for which sum he would give up the property. Similar cases were mentioned, and houses and land pointed out which, had been actually abandoned. A halt was made at Mr. Daw's (one of the oldest settlers), who had a story to tell of heavy losses, although he possessed a portion of the best land, but he only reaped nine bags from 120 acres. A move was then made for Mr. Northcott's place, which is prettily situated on the Cygnet River. Here further evidence was afforded of the rank growth of the narrow leaf and the damage caused by it; and then we drove through Lake Farm, and heard of another and more extensive failure. Thousands of pounds had been expended on this property in fencing and other improvements, but all to no purpose, as neither sheep nor crops would thrive there, and yet it appeared to be the pick of the country-side.
When we returned to Queenscliffe about half past 6, having driven some 25 miles, we had come to the conclusion that except in a few favored spots on the coast and along the banks of the Cygnet River the land on that portion of the island was not worth holding. From enquiries which I made of the farmers I found they were desirous that the Government should forgive them their arrears, and let them take up the land on lease at a penny to three pence per acre, and have the right to purchase at the expiry of their lease at £1 per acre, the rent paid to go as part of the purchase-money. Those who had tried the experiment of clearing the land had expended from £6 to £7 per acre, and to comply with the cultivation clauses of the Act was simply impossible.
The Commissioner of Crown Lands addressed a few words to the residents, in which, after apologising for the absence of Mr. Hussey and the Hon. W. A. E. West-Erskine, he thanked them for the kindness they had shown the commission in placing vehicles at their disposal. He said what they had seen that day was convincing as to the comparative worthlessness of the land except in small and favored patches, but he would like to point out to them that the present Act gave them the opportunity of throwing up their selections and being released from their arrears, when they would be able to take out leases for 21 years with a right of renewal for 21 years more at 2d. per acre. This was all they required, with the exception that the present law did not give them the right to purchase, but all their arrears would be forgiven them. If the other portions of Kangaroo Island were similar to the portions they had travelled over that afternoon 2d. per acre was certainly as much as the land was worth. He would also point out that he did not think the question of the rent which they had paid to Government had anything to do with the present condition of affairs, for the simple reason that the large majority of them had never paid Government anything but the 10 percent, which was paid at the time they took the land up ; that practically they had had the land for nearly six years for nothing, and notwithstanding that numbers of them had come to grief, and the remainder of them feared it would be with difficulty that they would be able to remain on the ground. It seemed to him the land was altogether unsuited for the purposes for which it had been taken up, and with the exception of a few choice spots on the coast it was fit for nothing else than the purpose to which it was originally put, namely, grazing. They said unless they had the right of purchase of the land there was little encouragement for them to go on, and they objected to holding the land on lease unless there was a prospect at some time or other for them to make the land their own. He must state that was a matter for their own consideration. They could make the land their own if they carried out their previous agreement. The settlers having thanked the Commissioner for his consideration and courtesy, the toast of the Land Commission was drunk with cheers, and the residents accompanied the party to the steamer, cheering them, and being cheered in turn as the boat drew away from the shore.
THE COMMISSION AT CHRISTMAS COVE.
The Governor Musgrave lay at her anchorage near the jetty on Friday night, and the commissioners, who were tired out with their day's employment, made an early retirement to their respective berths after partaking of a well-prepared dinner, to which Canon Green might nave sat down in comfort, as the only potables indulged in were lager beer and hock. At 5 a.m, the screw began to revolve again, and the Musgrave steamed away to the opposite side of the bay, where the commission were due at Penneshaw at 10 a.m. In the grey light of the early morning Christmas Cove looked a romantically peaceful spot, and certainly better deserving of its Christianlike cognomen than the other name, Hog's Bay, which must have been bestowed upon the locality by a buccaneer of the olden days who thought more of his appetite than Scriptural teachings. Rising with a gentle slope from the sea the little town-ship, which consists of a schoolhouse, a chapel, and an unoccupied hotel, stretches away to the hills above, wherein are situate the residences of some of the settlers. The commission held their enquiry in the schoolhouse, and examined Messrs. T. Willson, sen., J.P., David Buick, E. S. Bates, jun., and W. Howard, of Hog Bay, and E. S. Bates, sen., of Grassy Flat. Mr. T. Willson, sen., was the principal witness, as he in effect spoke the resolutions of a meeting which the settlers held some time ago, and in which they unanimously agreed that the land on Kangaroo Island requires special legislation for its occupancy.
After lengthened residence the settlers find it almost impossible to live by plodding, the value of the land being much exaggerated. They consider that the price of the land in Dudley especially should be at once reduced by the Government on the grounds that after 11 years since it was opened up for sale a larger area produces no revenue whatever, and now lies idle. They propose that all land included in scrub and miscellaneous leases may be surrendered by the lessees, and come under a new agreement as follows :—The upset price to be 5s. per acre, that credit be given for the fee for 20 years, and a payment of 5 per cent or 3d. per acre be paid annually, and after 10 years' occupancy the balance of purchase money may be paid and the fee granted. That all present waste lands of the Crown now lying idle may be taken up at 2s. 6d. per acre, and 20 years credit, 1½d. per annum per acre to be paid as part purchase money to be granted after 10 years occupancy and an expenditure equal to the value of 2s. 6d. per acre shall have been made. In no case shall transfer be permitted until improvements are made equal to the value of the fee per acre, and it is also suggested that the hundred of Haines and other hundreds now open should be offered at the same rate and conditions.
The other witnesses also testified that the land on Kangaroo Island, with the exception of a few choice lots near the coast was altogether inferior and covered with a dense growth of narrow-leaf ti-tree, kangaroo thorn, native tobacco, and native wattle. Some had experimented with black wattle with fairly encouraging results, but could not afford to go largely into this enterprise because of the length of time required for the wattle to grow. On the other hand, wattle seeds had been sown from which there were no returns. Those residents who hold the best land on the edge of the coast are quite satisfied with their properties and have nothing to complain of, having reaped as much as 25 bushels of barley to the acre this season.
Against this, however, must be put the reverse of the picture, the extreme of which was exemplified by one witness, who complained that he had paid 30s. a year for 900 acres of scrub, and wanted his rent reduced because the land wasn't worth it, and he could not afford to pay this amount. The commissioners listened patiently to the stories of the settlers, and Mr. Coles replied to them in terms similar to those which be had used at Queenscliffe, and promised, on behalf of the commission, to endeavor to redress their grievances.
This concluded the actual business of the trip ; but as Captain Clare had taken the steamer round to Antechamber Bay and Cape Jervis again to land more goods, the party had to wait his return. To fill up time a visit was paid to Hog Bay where the Frenchmen landed in 1803 and left a record of their visit on a rock which still bears the inscription:— "Expedition pour decouvrir par le Comman-dant Baudin sur le Geographe, 1803." The letters are gradually wearing away, and this interesting relic will gradually disappear unless some step is taken to preserve it. Mr. Krichauff said he would bring the matter before the Geographical Society, and it was suggested that the inscription should be carved on another rock near the same spot, and the original stone be brought to Adelaide and preserved in the Museum.
THE OLDEST INHABITANT.
George Bates was interviewed and recounted many of the details and exploits of his earlier years. His story has been frequently told, but will always have a measure of interest when it comes from his own lips, He was born in 1800, his father being a Staffordshire man and his mother a Welsh woman. They lived in London and were very poor, as work was scarce and blacksmithing poorly paid. At 11 years of age young Bates was very glad to get away from home, where food was scarce, and to join a training ship where the meals were regular. Thence he went into the navy and was engaged in convoying vessels to and from the West Indies during the war which ended with Waterloo. He then came out to Sydney as a sailor on a convict ship, struck the mate in a quarrel, and was imprisoned in Sydney but shortly afterwards released, and came in a whaling vessel to Kangaroo Island in 1823. He and his companions found "plenty tucker" there, as kangaroos and seals were numerous. They cured the skins, and one vessel took away as many as six or seven thousand in a season. The skins were bartered for rum at £3 a gallon and tobacco at 10s. a pound, and for a pocketknife or any similar article; they gave a sealskin. Bates went on a sealing voyage in the Prince of Denmark to West Australia in 1828, and the captain wished him to go down to New Zealand; but he had heard that the natives were cannibals, and with characteristic prudence he replied,
"Oh, no, not there; I don't mind eating natives, but they don't eat George." He returned to Kangaroo Island, having for his mates Andrews, Worley, and Kirby. They led a very free and careless life, and, as the old man expressed it, "I missed a lot of trouble by leaving home and coming out here. I couldn't have lived to be hale and hearty at 88 if I'd stopped in the old country. There was not enough to eat there; but here I could always get kangaroo, emu, snakes, or something else to put between my teeth. I couldn't tackle shags or penguins though; I've been very hungry sometimes, but I couldn't tackle them. Seal flesh is very good, makes capital stews. I couldn't go it now, but my stomach got used to it then. Snakes are real good eating. I had no bread for three years. No vessel came here during that time; but I didn't want bread. Man is a flesh eating animal. You can starve a dog on bread. Oh yes, we had good old times in them days. We had the niggers to work for us, and plenty of wives. We used to bring 'em over from the mainland. Cape Jervis. I lived, there with the natives for three months, but they killed my dogs, and when they found I couldn't hunt and get more tucker they all cleared out and left me to starve. I was very anxious then and looked out every day for the boat which came at last, from the island, and wasn't I glad to get back again amongst the kangaroos. There wasn't as much grass on the island as you could clean your pipe with, and at was never fit for anything except the animals we found on it. I have to be careful now; not so young as I once was. My old woman is nearly blind, and bedridden, and I have to do the cooking and mending and cleaning. My worst trouble is to find wood for the fire. The Government allows us rations, but they might allow me a bit of baccy. I spend a good deal of my time in reading. My eyesight is still good, and a nephew sends me out English papers regularly by the mail."
The old man and his wife live in a hut by the sea, which has been granted to them for life, and the residents help them, but they have a very solitary existence. At half past 2 the commission re-embarked amidst cheers from the settlers, and the steamer headed away for
where she lay till Sunday morning. An attempt was made to catch some fish, but they would not bite, and the fishermen employed by the Kingscote Company complained that they had not been able to get up the river or make a catch of anything but whiting for two months past. A visit was paid to the residence of Mr. Buick, sen., where the commissioners were hospitably entertained, and picked large luscious pears and apples from the trees which are growing in Mr. Buick's garden. These trees not only bear well, but are wonderfully healthy in appearance, and do not obtain any other moisture than the rainfall. The place is kept in excellent order, showing what can be done by care and labor ; but Mr. Buick states that except the small patch he occupies there is not an acre of good land on the river.
Saturday night was passed on board the steamer, which remained at her anchorage in the river, and before sunrise she was steaming homewards, the party arriving at the Port at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, well satisfied with the outing, as they had the good fortune to meet with smooth seas and fine weather.THE LANDS COMMISSION AT KANGAROO ISLAND. (1888, March 10). South Australian Weekly Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1881 - 1889), p. 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article94727736