In 1878, when western Queensland was still frontier territory, an epic droving trip was made from east to west across the colony. Capricorn drover tells the story of this journey through the eyes of an ordinary drover, Edward Talbot, and is based on the diary he kept for almost the whole of the trip.
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by Pam Garfoot and Elizabeth Conway
The aim of the one thousand mile journey was to move fourteen hundred cattle from Waverley, a station owned by the entrepreneurial settler John Arthur Macartney, to another of his runs, Diamantina Lakes Station, on the Diamantina River. We follow the journey through Edward Talbot’s eyes with the aid of his diary, which is often wryly humorous. Short extracts from the diary appear throughout the book.
With Talbot on the droving team were Herbert Marris, Ted Gooch, Tom Hardy, several Aboriginal stockmen, and boss drover Tom Kelly and his wife. There was also a cook, when they could manage to keep one.
The men were members of that romantic group, long distance drovers or overlanders, pioneering Queensland’s pastoral industry. They faced many adversities on the trip: scarcity of water and food, flooding rains and accidents. There were also potential dangers and fears such as stampedes and attacks by hostile Aborigines. In addition, simmering tension between Talbot and Kelly plagued the entire trip.
The westward route of the trip roughly followed the Tropic of Capricorn, and the team travelled through the area now known as the Galilee Basin. The cattle were moved across the Connors Range headed towards Clermont initially, and on towards Muttaburra and Pelican Waterhole (now Winton). The stations they passed or travelled through included Arthur Downs, Cotherstone, Bowen Downs, Mount Cornish, Vindex, Bladensburg, Elderslie, Brighton Downs and Cork.
Ultimately the cattle were delivered successfully, and the men resumed the lives they had previously known. Capricorn drover looks at their experiences afterwards - lives of diversity, of achievement, and of sorrow. For example, one of the team came to a tragic end while working for Macartney elsewhere in pioneer Australia. Their months working together on Macartney’s droving team form the basis of this book and will forever unite them in Queensland’s frontier history.
Names, places and topics in the book: Edward Talbot, Philip Talbot, Tom Kelly, Edward (Ted) Gooch, Herbert Marris, Tom Hardy, John Arthur Macartney, Hugh Heber-Percy, Patrick Mooney, St Lawrence, Waverley Station, Diamantina Lakes Station, Belyando River, Conn Waterhole settlement, Skull Hole, Auvergne Station, early Queensland pastoral industry, Native Mounted Police, frontier violence, aboriginal stockmen.