Article #7 - Dated Thursday 15 May 1947

River Murray Steamers Controversy

In so young a country as South Australia there should be little room for controversy concerning the actual truth of the cardinal events or even the nomenclature of the place names in the State.  But the very opposite is sometimes the case and we find that little more than a century after the proclamation of the Colony on December 28th, 1836, that protagonists arise to boost this or that contention in favor of some person long since passed on, and with few if any records to act as counsel for the defendant.  Early maps are valuable documents in such cases, and early records, especially if edited by embarrassed diarists, are invaluable.  But maps are easily torn from a volume they were intended to illuminate and the writer is in possession of such a book from which some selfish individual has extracted a map that would have thrown light upon a point at present under discussion.

In a daily paper of Saturday, April 26th last, it is stated that one Ian Mudie is writing a hook on the Murray Steamers, and their skippers: he disagrees with a contributor to the said paper in the person of one E. M. Jones, who wrote an article entitled "Goolwa, Town of Glory. Awakens to New- Life," appearing in said paper on 19/4/47.  Mr. Jones is allowed to reply to Mr. Mudie and their statements appear adjacent as we are wont to see electoral propaganda by the L.C.L. and A.L.P.  The first point Mr. Mudie strives to make is in his opening paragraph as follows: — "It is stated that early maps show Goolwa as Port Pullen.  If they do so they are incorrect.  Port Pullen is much nearer the Murray mouth than is Goolwa.  Captain Pullen deserves a slightly more complimentary description than that of "a Captain Pullen” given by your correspondent.  He was Light's second-in-command in the Rapid, and after leaving South Australia became Admiral Pullen and earned some fame in searching for Franklin in the Arctic.  The name Goolwa appears to have been first given to the Goolwa channel from Lake Alexandrina to the sea, and some early maps show it as the name for the Murray up as high as the Victorian border."

To that Mr. Jones replies thus: — "Most records of our place-names take Port Pullen as the early name for Goolwa.  Port Pullen could not have been placed much nearer the mouth because the narrow strip of sandhill known as Richard's Peninsula runs from Goolwa to the outlet.  No slighting reference to Captain Pullen was intended.  He was a gallant officer and did good work as a surveyor, but I did not find it possible to tell the whole story of his achievements: my article was about Goolwa, not Captain Pullen.  It is widely held that the lower part of the Murray, particularly where it makes its acute turn around the island, was called Goolwa.  The settlement was for many years called, correctly, 'the town on the Goolwa,' but popular usage has gradually transferred the name from the river channel to the town itself."

Naturally there was a correspondent sufficiently interested in the subject to advise the paper and its readers as follows: "I have an old map of Australia dated October 1st, 1875, which has much detail and may throw some light on the vexed question of the location of Port Pullen.  The map names the town of Goolwa as such, and the outlet to the sea as "Port Pullen or Mouth of the Murray."  The main lake is shown as 'Lake Victoria' as is also the small one near Wentworth.  In the S.A. section the river is named 'River Murray' and the only towns on its course are 'Wellington' and 'Moorunde'."

So much at the moment for the Mudie-Jones joust at arms.  We will most apropos of this question go back a decade prior to the correspondent's map of 1875 and give some excerpts from the "most recent and accurate information of places in the Colony of South Australia" collected in the early sixties when the Colony was but 29 years of age, and towns such as Mannum had but recently been laid out. Let us delve into its very informative contents,


Goolwa is shown as a postal township and port in the electoral district of Encounter Bay, hd. Goolwa and under the control of the district council of Goolwa and Port Elliot.  It is situated on the W. bank of the Murray River (about 7 miles from the Murray mouth) which has been successfully navigated by the various steamers trading between the Goolwa, the Upper Murray, Murrumbidgee and Darling Rivers, and is about to be made more generally available by the introduction of vessels specially built in Great Britain for the purpose and under the supervision of Captains Johnstone and King who have been for some years engaged in the River trade.  The Finniss river flows into the Murray about 6 miles, and Currency Creek about 3 miles E.N.E. of the township.  The district is partly agricultural and partly pastoral, the farmers dividing their attention between wheat growing and sheep grazing by which means the land is yearly improving in quality.  There is a steam flour mill (Barker & Co's) in the township, one brewery, and one iron foundry, the latter establishment being entitled to the credit of having constructed the first iron vessel (the Jolly Miller) built in South Australia.  It has all the appliances for doing every kind of shipbuilding and engineering required on the rivers.  The nearest places are Middleton, 4½ miles N.W., on the line of tramway to Port Victor; Port Elliot, 6½ miles W. and also on the tramway line; and Currency Creek, 4 miles N.  The communication with Currency Creek is by Rounsevell's bi-weekly coach, and with the other places, by the tramway.  With Adelaide 55 miles N.W., the communication is daily from Port Elliot, a bi-weekly via Strathalbyn by Rounsevell's mail coaches.  Coolwa has a post and money order oflice, and three hotels—the Goolwa (Varcoe's), Corio (Neville's) and Australasian (Willcock's), a local court, a volunteer cavalry corps, an aboriginal station, and branches of the South Australian and Adelaide Banks, and the South Australian and Adelaide Insurance Companies.  The surrounding country for a distance of about 8 miles is flat, gradually forming to the N.W. into a range of hills.  The soil is black and sandy and over lies a limestone formation.  The population numbers about 600 persons.  Goolwa is a S. Hd. of the County of Hindmarsh lying on the W. side of Lake Alexandrina and on the coast ofEncounter Bay.  The townships of Port Elliot and Goolwa, the latter the depot for the Murray navigation, are in this hundred.  About half of its area is purchased land, mostly agricultural.

Goolwa (or Lower-Murray) is the name given to the navigable channel leading from the sea mouth of the Murray to Lake Alexandrina.  This channel turns sharply to the W. immediately after entering, running in a N.E. direction for about 6 miles, when it forms a bend past the port of Goolwa to the E. for 14 miles and opens into the lake at Point Sturt.  The steamers trading up the Murray come down the Goolwa River as far as the township of Goolwa, which is situated upon its W. bank.

Lieut. J S Pullen R.N.

And now for Lieut. J. S. Pullen, R.N.  He is given as one of the early colonists of South Australia.  He arrived with Colonel Light on the hrig Rapid on August 18th, 1836, and was on the Survey Staff of that gentleman.  Shortly after his arrival he was, with the Surveyor-General, despatched by Captain Sturt to explore and survey the mouth of the Murray; and he may be thoroughly accredited with the discovery of Port Adelaide into which he sailed on September 28, 1836.  Whilst fitting out at Encounter Bay to survey Lake Alexandrina he was burned out, and what money he had, with all else he possessed, was destroyed, even to his instruments.  To replenish everything he was compelled to walk the whole way to Adelaide, over eighty miles.  He surveyed Port Elliot and did much to make known the geography of our coasts.  On returning to England Lieut. Pullen found scope for his ability in many capacities.  In June. 1849, he sailed in a brig for the Arctic coast of America in search of Sir Jno. Franklin, and wintered two years and a half with the fur traders of the Hudson's Bay Company, returning home via North America in October. 1851.  The next year be went to Davis' Straits, Lancaster Sound, and Beachy Isle, and was shut up in the ice for two years.  Port Pullen (now the Goolwa) was called after Admiral Pullen, and most people are at a loss to understand why the name was not retained.

That biographical stretch is from yet another authority than the one from which the data of Goolwa was quoted, and which does not mention Lieut. Pullen's name being used as a designation of Goolwa.  It does, however, mention Pullen Point (Co. Hindmarsh) as being the end of the low sandhills (Sir Richard's Peninsula) forming the W. side of the sea mouth of the Murray.  On its highest part, in 35 deg 34' S. lat, 138 deg. 57' 15" E. long., is a flagstaff, whence the tidal and other signals are made.  Also Pullen's Island (Co. Hindmarsh) a small rocky islet lying off the point known as Freeman's Not. at the S. extremity of Port Elliot.  It lies about a quarter of a mile from the land. Settlers at Goolwa in the early days, always referred to Goolwa as "the   Goolwa" or the Elbow, by which name the blacks knew it. on account of its sharp bending conformation.  A copy of Longman's new (?) Atlas, in the writer's possession, published 24 years after the above recordings mentions Goolwa, but makes no reference of any township, island, or point named Pullen.  The data for its compilation was evidently collected many years previous as only the principal geographical data is shown.  For instance the Bar at the Murray mouth is shown; also the Coorong, Lake Alexandrina and Goolwa.  And Goolwa stands out as a town as does Port Victor.  No other towns are shown on the Murray till Wentworth is reached.  The now flourishing Hills towns in the Mount Lofty Ranges are not shown, but Goolwa is, possibly because there was talk at the time of the River trade becoming sufficiently important for deep-sea vessels to take in cargoes that had been shipped down the Murray for loading at a prospective deep-sea port.

In 1840, to quote yet another authority, there was some trouble with the natives in the South East.  About the middle of the year, a brig named the Maria was cast away on the South Coast, about three days journey to the South East of the mouth of the Murray River, and a report reached Adelaide, several days afterwards to the effect that all of the survivors of the wreck had been murdered by blacks.  A party was sent out under the charge of Lieut. Pullen. R.N. (nowAdmiral) to visit the district and enquire into the circumstances.  After a short research, the dead bodies of seventeen men, women and children were discovered, partly buried in the sand.  The flesh had been completely stripped off the bones of one, which was that of a woman.  It was believed that it had been devoured by the murderers.  The blacks in the neighborhood had the clothes and blankets of the men as well as bonnets, shawls etc., which had belonged to the women.  On receipt of Lieut. Pullen's report, Governor Gawler dispatched Major O'Halloran, the Commissioner of Police, and a strong party, with instructions, if possible, to find out the guilty persons and to punish them. The offenders belonged to a tribe which inhabited the south coast near Lacepede Bay.  The expedition crossed the mouth of the Murray on August 21st and on the following day made prisoners of thirteen men, two boys, and about fifty women and children.  The men were retained in custody, and the rest were set at liberty.  All the captured natives had in their possession some portion of the ship-wrecked persons' effects, and some of the clothes were saturated with blood.  After some trouble two more blacks were arrested, and on the following day they were tried by court martial for the murders.  Two of them were found guilty and sentenced to death.  The condemned men were hanged next day in the presence of a large number of the tribe, who had been collected to witness the executions. This summary act of retribution made a profound impression on the natives, and it had a a much more salutory effect upon them in checking attacks on white people than if the guilty persons had been brought to Adelaide for trial in the usual way.  The punishment which overtook the murderers was inflicted under the Governor's sanction.  It was probably not in accordance with law, and Colonel Gawler was severly blamed by the authorities in England, and by others for the course that he had pursued.  Perhaps the Governor over-rated the extent of his authority in dealing with such a contingency, but there can be little doubt as to the wisdom of his policy in convincing the natives of the overwhelming power of the white people.

And thus ends the narrative of the murder of the ill-fated passengers land crew of the wrecked Maria, and the search for the clues of the tragedy which was initially conducted by Lieut. Pullen until the arrival of Major O'Halioran and his strong party of Police.  It is stated that others besides the authorities in England disagreed with the mode of trial and execution of the natives who were hanged, and it is possible that there were those even in the Goolwa district later who felt it would be wiser if they wished to live at peace with the blacks to adopt the native name of Goolwa for their town rather than perpetuate the name of one who had been closely associated with the summary court martial aud execution, in the presence of a large body of blacks of several of their dusky race.

As regards tlie supposed slight to the memory of Lieut. Pullen, when Mr. Jones in his article in the daily Press refers to him as merely "Captain", it would seem that Mr. Mudie is somewhat hypercritical.  Others such as the late David Gordon (Sir David Gordon) in his book on the Murray "The Nile of Australia," refers to "Captain" Pullen. And there are also such famous names as Captain Sturt, Captain Barker, etc.

The question of the early Murray River steamers will he dealt with in a later article in this series, but as regards the priority of Captain Randell or Captain Cadell in the initial navigation of Australia's great water way, there seems to he but one answer and that an irrefutable "aye" in favor of Captain W. R. Randell, and if proof were needed it has already been provided in this series of articles when the quotations were made from the old diary of William Bevis Randell, the father of the far-seeing first navigator of the Murray, and the grand-parent of Captain R. M. Randell, of Murray Bridge.


Article #8 - Dated Thursday 22 May 1947

Tis Autumn, and I'd paint my garden ere -- The wonder glory of its bloom is past --  While decorative dahlias still are there -- To gaze upon, and chill of Winter's blast -- Is yet some weeks away.

A row of scarlet zonales lines the wall -- That fronts my rock-faced house and home -- Made more a place of comfort by the call -- Of each and every flower that cares to come -- And bloom but for a day.

So gorgeous are their tints that butterflies -- Are floating o'er the zinnia blooms to ask -- What secret beauty treatment underlies -- Their subtle charm to lighten their own task -- Upon their wings that way.

Close by the entrance gate a hawthorn tree -- Is smothered with bright berries—drops of blood -- To later fall as tears for me to see -- And ponder on the mystery of Winter's flood -- And Spring, so soft .and gay.

Me thinks that Autumn is the Season's queen -- For on her gown the jewels of the sun -- Are spread as gifts for fruitfulness that's been -- By her developed, as by Spring begun -- And ere the Winter's grey.

Comes with white arrows to demolish all -- The tints of beauty, and the air so calm -- And win the World, and hold it in her thrall -- Till almond blossoms with their silent charm -- Of pink, broadcast their lay,

And spread a snowy coverlet about -- That speaks of warmth, we felt for ever gone:  -- That means the end of floral death, a rout -- And heralds Hope renewed for every one -- Till once again comes May.

The season's circling cycle being past -- Is waiting for the Winter rains to fall -- The soil to soak and undergo a fast -- Ere called by seamstress Spring to swathe it all -- Once more in queen array.

The Adelaide Botanical Gardens

The writer strove in the above verses to pen the feelings that obsessed him contemplating the glorious blooms in his autumn garden; but the expression being so poor a garb for those feelings, his gaze wandered to his books, and, at random, he selected a volume.  It chanced to be an early history of the Adelaide Botanical Gardens.  He recalled his last visit to that delightful portion of the environs of the State's capital.  He saw again the decorative dahlias in bloom, not far distant from the avenue of giant Moreton Bay fig trees, whose protruding roots were such a striking register of their great age.  Of recent years the political meetings in the Botanic Park have become quite an attraction for a large portion of the adherents of the Labor Party, but others of divergent opinions are drawn to the meetings on a Sunday afternoon, and they mostly pass through the Botanical Gardens which are ever a fitting ending to the architectural beauty of the buildings which line, on the northern side, one of the finest boulevards in the world.  From the very entrance through the artistically wrought iron gates the gardens are a dreamland to the flower lover, and a Federal Cabinet Minister, whose outspoken and heterodox views on some subjects have annoyed to fury his political opponents, was so impressed by the beauty of the Botanical Gardens of Adelaide, that he gave them pride of place as "the best Botanical Gardens in the Commonwealth."

The first Director of the Adelaide Botanical Gardens was George W. Francis, F.H.S., who was born in England in 1788 and arrived in the Colony by the Louisa Baillie with his wife and children on September 2nd, 1849.  Soon after his arrival he took the old Botanic Garden north of the Torrens on a lease, and was subsequently appointed to the Directorship — an office he held up to his decease.  He was the author of several works, on experienced botanist, and a lecturer.  He died of dropsy oil August 9th, 1865, aged 66 years, leaving a wife and ten children.  On the death of Mr. Francis, Dr. Richard von Schomburgk accepted the position of Director of the Gardens.  Dr. Schomburgk was born at Friebault, Saxony, in 1811.  His father (the Rev. J. F. L. Schomburgk) was a Lutheran ecclesiastic at Thuringia, and his brother, Sir Robert Schomburgk, Consul at Bankok, was distinguished for his knowledge of geography and natural history, and for his travels and scientific researches in South America in conjunction with one of the greatest scientific travellers, Baron von Humboldt.  After studying botany at Berlin, and in the Royal Gardens at Potsdam, Dr. Schomburgk, accompanied his brother Robert on several of his expeditions, the most notable being that to British Guiana, in 1840, when the latter was appointed commissioner for surveying and marking out its boundaries.  On returning to Germany, Richard von Schomburgk, having taken a part in the political disturbances of the day, was compelled to leave his native land somewhat hurriedly, and with his brother, Otto, came to South Australia.  Shortly after arrival they purchased land on the Gawler River, and engaged in farming and vine culture.  They resided there for about ten years, and made their names famous as vignerons on their estate Buchsfelde.  Dr. Schomburgk was Curator of the local Museum, and was much liked by the people of Gawler.  His brother died in December 1865.  On the demise of Mr. Francis, he accepted the directorship of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, and on his departure from Gawler the residents presented him with a superb silver goblet as a testimonial of the respect in which he was held.  At the time he entered on his directorship, the gardens were hardly worth the name, but they eventually, under his knowledgable supervision, became the birthplace of costly floral gems and rare plants, and one of the most charming spots to while away a leisure hour in the Southern Hemisphere.  From many lands honors poured in upon Dr. Schomburgk while he resided in the midst of the miniature world of exotics he had created, and spent his spare time in writing of topics which might interest and benefit the florist, the farmer, or the agriculturist.  The author of the above biographical data, George E. Loyau. in his publication of 64 years ago, enumerates the various honors conferred upon the late Dr. Schomburgk, to whom truly may it be said, Adelaide is beholden for its supremely beautiful botanical gardens.

Of course, the site of the gardens was a great asset in the successful cultivation of all plant and free life.  The soil on the Torrens banks and the near vicinity, with an unfailing water supply; must have been recognised by the famous doctor as his faithful servants; and coupled with the salubrious and sunny climatic conditions almost any plants and trees grew to perfection.  But nothing can detract from the praise that is due to the second director of the gardens whose labors were as a wand in the wilderness, and created a veritable fairyland.  Under his supervision there were provided within the garden, a museum of economic botany, a museum of specimens of Australian woods, a palm house, orchid houses, a Victoria Regia house, where the magnificent South American water-lily comes to perfection in its season; an experimental garden, and numerous fountains, statues and other appropriate decorations.  It is no wonder that among the honors received by the late Dr. Schomburgk were decorations from most of the reigning sovereigns of Europe, and also from botanical and horticultural societies of America.  The gardens under Dr. Schomburgk occupied some 40 acres.  To the North a space of 80 acres was laid out as a Botanic Park, intersected by an elegant drive and subdivided by broad shaded paths and walks, which with the gardens,especially in the Autumn, are now with the passage of the years, perhaps the prize of which the City of Adelaide should most be proud.

It is said that for the best things of life we do not have to pay.  It certainly is true of a great many of the most desirable things.  And there is no charge levied to wander through the Adelaide Botanic Gardens.  Dr. Schomburgk died on March 24th, 1890.  In his day he had planted over 13,000 varieties of trees and plants in that delightful memorial which he unconsciously erected to himself.