Queen of Colonies Pde
Courtesy Sunshine Coast Council My Maps, pre 2011 imagery
2011 sunrise by Roger Todd Moffat Beach
Queen of the Colonies Monument photo by Roger Todd 2011, shipwreck, local listing
Moffateers Lookout proposal 2009 architect Dragi Majstorovic
1938 photo of Jim Rapkins aged 10 at the tree courtesy Prue Rapkins
"QUEEN OF THE COLONIES"
The 21st May 1864 saw the appointment of Inspector John McDonald ( - 1895) to the position of 'Keeper of the Prison Hulk - Proserpine'.
Inspector McDonald, was the Inspector of Water Police for the Port of Moreton Bay, having been appointed to this position on the 10th October 1862, and had previously served as an Acting Sergeant-in-Charge of the Brisbane Police Station.
During his time as Inspector Water Police, McDonald was involved in the successful rescue of a small party of passengers and crew from the passenger ship "Queen Of The Colonies".
The "Queen Of The Colonies", a Aberdeen built clipper of 1346 tons under the command of Captain Cairncross, left London on the 24thDecember, 1862 with 460 passengers and 1200 tons of general cargo, reportedly the largest ever bought to Queensland to that time. The voyage to Brisbane was to be an eventful one. Unfortunately, shortly after sailing measles were discovered amongst the passengers. In all 35 cases of measles were reported six of which proved to be fatal. The fatalities being exclusively contained to the infants onboard. There were 2 deaths of women whilst in childbirth, one infant from convulsions, and one adult who died from injuries received from falling into the ships hold. During the voyage 26 stowaways were discovered, there were seven births and one marriage conducted by the Reverend Terrence Joseph Quinn, the Roman Catholic Chaplain, who joined the voyage at Queenstown, County Cork Ireland (renamed Cobh in 1922). One would think this more than enough to keep Captain Cairncross and his crew busy however the "Queen Of The Colonies" was to experience further drama before she berthed in Brisbane.5
Sadly as the "Queen Of The Colonies" arrived in sight of Moreton Bay a Mrs Barnfield died in childbirth and it was decided to bury her on Moreton Island. At five o'clock in the afternoon the "Queen of The Colonies" came to anchor near Cape Moreton and under the command of the ships Chief Officer, Mr. Eldridge, 14 people left onboard the ships boat for Moreton Island. Amongst those onboard were the deceased woman's husband Mr. Barnfield, a Captain Hill, who read the funeral service, Father Stanley, Mr. W.O. Hill (later to be appointed as a police magistrate), a Lieutenant Durant and Messrs. Arundel, Langford, Ford, Grant (fourth-mate), Roach and Murray (quarter-masters), and 3 able seaman. As the burial party left Moreton Island for the "Queen Of The Colonies" a sudden storm, together with an ebb tide, blew the ships boat past the "Queen Of The Colonies". Unable to take hold of a line thrown to them from the ship and incapable of rowing against the weather and tide the ships boat and her crew were carried out to sea.
Lost and unable to find their way back to the "Queen Of The Colonies" the ships boat was eventually put ashore on a beach near Caloundra Heads. The "Queen Of The Colonies" raised the alarm however despite several attempts rescuers were not able to put the sea due to the continued bad weather.
Even though it had been more than 10 days since the loss of the ships boat and her crew, and with many holding no hope for their survival, Inspector McDonald put to sea with 5 men in his rescue boat under oars to be almost shipwrecked himself on an unknown reef near Bribie Passage.
With their provisions contaminated by sea water from their near sinking in Bribie Passage, and a less than happy crew, Inspector McDonald put his boat ashore to continue the search, accompanied by a Mr. Campbell, on foot. The remainder of his crew stayed with the boat.
While the search was underway the survivors of the ships boat, with little by way of food and water, had attempted to launch their boat back through the breaking surf however their attempt was to be unsuccessful as the boat was almost swamped in the heavy seas. Disaster also befell Mr. Barnfield who was taken by sharks during the attempt to relaunch the ships boat that saw the remaining survivors hastily retreat to the safety of the shore.
After 14 days lost the majority of the missing men were found by Inspector McDonald at Caloundra Head suffering from exposure and lack of food. Three of the men, the Chief Officer Mr Edridge, the Fourth officer and Lieutenant Durant had left the survivors in an attempt to find help two days earlier. Spurred on because of the poor health of the survivors Inspector McDonald loaded as many as he could into his boat and set off to return them to safety. Rowing with great purpose Inspector McDonald's men set off for Brisbane until the steam-tug 'BRISBANE' came into sight taking the first party of survivors onboard. Obtaining a fresh crew from the men onboard the 'BRISBANE', Inspector McDonald returned to Caloundra Head to pick up the remaining survivors. Within hours of returning the men to the safety of Brisbane, Inspector McDonald set off to return to Caloundra Head where he located the remaining 3 members of the "Queen Of The Colonies" and returned them to Brisbane.
In recognition of his efforts involved in this rescue the Government presented Inspector McDonald with £100. The agent and officers of the Black Ball Line, owners of the "Queen Of The Colonies" expressed their gratitude with the presentation to Inspector McDonald of a tea and coffee service valued at 100 guineas.6
Inspector McDonald remained with the Water Police until the 14th May 1867 when he was appointed as Superintendent of the Penal Colony at St Helena Island, Moreton Bay, a position he held until his retirement in 1882.7
"Queen of the Colonies"
A plaque commemorates the "Queen of the Colonies" shipwreck.
In April 1863 when the "Queen of Colonies" arrived in Moreton Bay among torrential rain, Captain Robert Cairncross sent a party ashore to bury Dr Barnsfield`s wife according to her express wish not to be consigned to the sea.
While returning to the brig the 13 men were blown away in a sudden squall and after 18 hours were tossed up on Moffat Beach in Caloundra. They survived on shellfish and fresh water, trying twice unsuccessfully to walk to Brisbane through the flooded country. On the eighth day the rain ceased and they attempted to row to Brisbane. The fourth wave smashed their boat and all reached the beach except for Dr Barnsfield.
The men were ill with dysentery and starving. A trim schooner veered away within a mile of the beach mistaking their blackened bodies for those of Aborigines. On the sixteenth day they were found by Police Inspector John McDonald.
The original Pandanus tree trunk on which the name of the ship was carved by the survivors is in Newstead House, Brisbane.
Ewen Maddock of Mooloolah claims that he carved the boat's name on the tree after his teacher told him this story on the beach using a brand new axe given to him as a birthday present. As it has been argued that the crew would not have had an implement suitable far such a carving, and number of people believe Maddock's story.