As a volunteer caretaker of the Bukkulla Reserve – the largest (over 1800 hectares) and most environmentally significant property of the lands under Wildlife Land Fund Limited (WLFL) management and for which the WLFL is the Sole Trustee – I was seeking early knowledge of the property. I was recently forwarded a copy of William Landsborough’s diary by the State Library of Queensland. Covering the years 1854, and 1856 to 1859, it deals with the famous explorer’s work in the Isaacs River, Nebo/Fort Cooper, and Marlborough areas. As it turns out, much of the land shown on his sketch map was taken up by Landsborough at the time and named ‘Glen Prairie’, including what is now the Bukkulla Reserve, 100km north of Rockhampton.
My full transcription of the text of the diary is available for viewing at the State Library, but I’d like to share here a few notable highlights.
In what turns out to form an uncanny link between the WLFL and Wildlife Queensland, Landsborough marked out ‘runs’ on the Isaacs River, some of which were taken up by Arthur Mackenzie and became known as ‘May Downs’. Arthur Mackenzie was to become the great grandfather of Judith Wright, one of Wildlife Queensland’s four Founders, back in 1962.
It seems likely that through his dealings with Landsborough, Arthur Mackenzie may have introduced the name Bukkulla to the Glen Prairie area. It would have been derived from the property Bukkulla near Inverell which belonged to his wife’s people, George and Margaret Wyndham, who had acquired it in 1839, and where Mackenzie and his party stayed while overlanding stock from New England to May Downs in 1861.
…world to the eastward
of north from Goldfinch
Mount Anna & W by N from
Goldfinch or Mount O’Connell~
I hope to be certain how
far we are from there
Saturday 5 June.
We marked a Morton
Bay Ash at our
Camp on the right
bank of this creek
from there we left at
at ½ past eight in
“Z” or “N”marked at the junction of two creeks that are tributaries of Talkee Murree Creek
Talkee Murree Creek
This may be the creek now known as Landsborough Creek
There is other faint writing on the sketch map which seems to indicate Clerk Point.
MAP OF BROADSOUND
& BUKKULLA SCRUB
& TALKEE MURREE
Landsborough’s sketch map shows The Broadsound, Talkee Murree Creek (now known as Wellington Creek, which has a tributary now called Landsborough Creek), and an area marked Reserve, along with what faintly resembles Clerk Point and some unnamed features. These features are mentioned in the text and the map has now been captioned with block lettering for clarity.
According to his notes, early in June 1857, Landsborough’s party camped on Talkee Murree Creek, followed the creek upstream through the scrub and then ascended the Range to a point where they could see the Styx River.
As he passed through the Bukkulla Scrub, Landsborough may well have been the first European on this particular land. Landsborough’s sketch map is the first known map to depict the Bukkulla Scrub. Matthew Flinders’ exquisite chart of 1802 of this coast, annotated with ‘Flat grassy land’ and ‘Woody grassy country’, may have prompted Landsborough to investigate the area. And Landsborough’s sketch map may, in part, be derived from Flinders’ chart.
Interestingly, amongst its more than 100 pages of routine searching for suitable grazing land to mark out and register with the New South Wales government, Landsborough’s diary contains two paragraphs of romantic poetry addressed to two different women known as ‘Black Eyes’ and ‘Blue Eyes’, probably written by the light of a candle in a tent on the bank of Wellington Creek.
Further items of natural history interest in connection with Landsborough’s work have arisen.
In a recent conversation with a member of Native Plants Queensland, I mentioned some of the features apparently named by Landsborough including Goldfinch Creek, and she immediately realized that the name Goldfinch probably referred to the yellow chat which she knew existed in the area.
In a further conversation with a member of Birdlife Australia, it was recognised that observation of goldfinches in the area could be the earliest report of the yellow chat by a European. Goldfinches would have been known to Landsborough in England.
While some of the property names Landsborough introduced have survived (including Bee Creek and Apis Creek, curiously both relating to bees) most of the names the explorer seems to have applied to features such as hills and creeks are absent from the first survey plan of 1868, a mere 10 years after the work described in his diary. More than likely the diary was still in his possession and not available to the survey party at the time.
The Wildlife Land Fund Limited is based in Queensland, Australia. It is the state’s leading community organisation involved in acquiring and managing land with high nature conservation values. Donations are vital to the operation of the WLFL. They assist the fund with its aim of acquiring and managing significant parcels of land and help with the managemenet of the ones that we already have. To make a donation to the Wildlife Land Fund Limited, please click here.
by Jeff Simmons.