This is chapter two in a blog series of the book “The Curse and its Cure. Vol I: The Ruins of Brisbane in the Year 2000”, written by Dr TP Lucas in 1894. You should probably read this post first: The curse and its cure. Vol I: The ruins of Brisbane in the Year 2000
Having now learned a little about the events that lead to Brisbane’s demise, our narrator and Mr and Mrs West are back on their (singular) boat on the Brisbane River. Mrs West notices a bird …
It’s a crane.
Apropos of nothing, we are treated to a fairly long exposition about how the Brisbanites built a racecourse at Hamilton (this is a real place), and worshipped racing and its associated ills above all else. Even on Sundays! “The sabbath was sadly desecrated in Queensland”. Our narrator mourns the fact that this previously beautiful region (presumably before all the gambling and drinking) is now empty, with a little casual racism about how there isn’t even a “Chinaman” to be seen, when suddenly, Mrs West spots a tiger!
(I will note at this point that Mrs West’s character is there entirely to notice things in the environment so that the narrator has something to talk about. Mr West, on the other hand, seems to do no more than make encouraging noises from time to time.)
The tiger is promptly shot, which prompts Mrs West to ask if there was a zoological garden in Brisbane, to which the reply is that “neither science nor art flourished in Brisbane, Madam … cash and bawbees, whiskey and cigars, is a descriptive gauge of Brisbane’s ruling aspirations”. A bawbee is a Scottish halfpenny. The use of the word here is slightly weird, as I’m not aware of it being used to describe Australian money, but it does give away Dr Lucas’ British heritage. Anyway, apparently the Brisbane residents decided that it would be much better for the children to be shown pictures of tigers rather than see actual beasts, and they then went on to fire all the scientists. This does absolutely nothing to explain the presence of the tiger they just shot.
Mrs West notices some mudflats, so we hear about stupid Brisbanites buying cheap land on the mudflats and meeting untimely ends.
Mrs West notices a man on horseback! The man rides over to the bank of the river to have a chat, and we learn that he and his brother are the only two living people in the region, and they have just been granted land rights over “the district of ancient Brisbane” to use as a cattle run. The trio learn that they are currently on the river between New Farm and Kangaroo Point, and if they continue down the river they will get to the site of “the old botanical gardens” (which is in the modern CBD), where the brothers will meet them and give them accommodation for the evening. He explains that the accommodation is a “primitive humpy” (a humpy is a traditional indigenous Australian temporary building), but that he “would do his best to make the lady comfortable”. Mrs West seems unfazed. Even though the trio don’t know his name, they accept the offer, and the man rides off to prepare to meet them downriver.
As they travel downriver, we get a particularly weird story about a paddle steamer that was commissioned by the Brisbanites to have a very loud whistle. Thankfully, they then arrive at the meeting point, and we finally learn the stranger’s name: Mr Greathead! They ride to his home, which is indeed as terrible as promised, but they eat damper (an Australian bread cooked over charcoal), beef, and boiled nettles, and everyone retires for the night.
Judging by the title alone, chapter three promises lots more casual racism. Stay tuned!