During the holidays I was reading this book by Jan Walker, published by UQ Press back in 1988. It’s been on my “to do” list for some time & I finally got down to reading it. The book was easy to read but also very informative and insightful, adding new information to previous readings I’d done. There were two levels of relevance: one in terms of the historical context generally and secondly, the specifics applicable to the families I research. Some of the key elements for me were:
1. the ways the squatters used to ensure dependency on the workers on their stations -high prices for stores being one example
2. the co-dependency between workers and employers with the latter providing many of the services required for day-to-day living
3. the authority of the squatters in relation to the Masters and Servants Act due to their role, or that of their peers, as magistrates. I wondered about this one because I have definitely seen newspaper articles where the employer was the “loser” in the exchange though perhaps it’s the relative infrequency of this that is the main issue.
4. the difference in power, and approach, between the Darling Downs squatters/land owners compared to those holding land in other parts of the colony of Moreton Bay/Queensland
5. the “rigging”/manipulation of land sales and selections available to the workers/selectors leaving the latter with poor land, poor access to transport and worst of all in our climate, poor access to water.
Why were these issues relevant to me?
1. my great-great grandfather George Kunkel very nearly lost the selection he had selected because a local VIP had also selected it, but in a different registry some days later. My ancestor’s success was even more significant when seen in the context of the historical trend. Why was this land so important -it lay along a creek which provided fresh water to sustain crops and livelihood. George went on to grow excellent citrus fruit, and his oranges were among a trial shipment sent udner refrigeration to the “home market” in 1904. (The Queenslander 16 July 1904)
2. George’s son, and his wife-to-be, both worked on Jondaryan station for a brief period during the late 1870s as did members of another branch of “my” research family, the Gavins. Jondaryan’s excellent station records document their employment and period of employment. They were not resident employees and so had rather more independence from the station and would have been working to bring in cash for their families.
3. Another unrelated Gavin family which I’ve also researched worked for nearby Jimbour station so this book provides direct and indirect insights into their lives as shepherds and washers on that property.
4. Some of the Dorfprozelten immigrants also worked on Downs properties so this provides further information to flesh out their story, especially those who were working in horribly isolated conditions as shepherds or hutkeepers.
5. a reference to the kin-relationship between William Kent from Jondaryan and the Kents in Maryborough -this requires further research as I have Kents in my family and don’t know as yet if this Maryborough Kent is the one the family thought belongs to our branch.
An interesting and thought-provoking book which will merit another reading in the near future with references (fully cited) included in my family stories.