Queensland Times (Ipswich), Saturday 25 July 1914, page 10Old Identities. Mr. James Ball. Seed Merchant and Stationer of Ipswich.
Fifty-five years in this state. Quarter-of-a-century in local post-office. An early bandsman, assisted in formation of agricultural and horticultural society.(By "Red Gum.")
Born at Bristol, England, Mr. Ball comes from a good old gardening family, and he was a first-class gardener when he set sail from the old country for Moreton Bay early in the month of February, 1859, in the ship Glentanner, arriving in Brisbane, after a tedious five months' voyage, about the 12th of June. Fellow passengers of his were two nephews of the late Mr. Walter Hill, curator of the Botanic Gardens, Brisbane, and Mr. Ball spent his first evening in what is now Queensland at Mr. Hill's residence, where the "new-chums" put in a jolly time in genial surroundings. Mr. Ball was chiefly concerned as to what he should "turn his hands" to, but that did not trouble him for long, as he was immediately engaged to proceed to Talgai station, near Allora, then owned by Messrs. Hood and John Douglas, the last-named gentleman subsequently, after the separation of Queensland, representing the constituency of Camden in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly. At a later period, probably about 1863, he (Mr. Douglas) was returned as member for Port Curtis in the Queensland Parliament, eventually becoming the Hon. John Douglas, C.M.G. (since deceased). His son, Mr. H. A. Douglas, now represents the Cook electorate in the Legislative Assembly. Regarding Mr. Ball's engagement with Messrs. Hood and Douglas, it was for six months at £40 per year and rations found, and was accepted with the view of obtaining "colonial experience."
Mr. Ball left Brisbane on the 13th of June--53 years past----- in the old river-steamer Hawk, his worldly possessions comprising three boxes of fashionable clothes, &c. (which he never wore, as will he shown later on in his story. The voyage to the "head of navigation," was commenced at 7 a.m., and, crawling along at almost a snail's pace, the Hawk reached its destination at 5 p.m. "We had ample time," remarked Mr. Ball, "to admire the scenery during the trip, and the river banks were well-clothed with beautiful tree foliage." Mr. Ball spent his first night in Ipswich at a boarding-house, situated on a part of the Girls' Central State school's play-ground, in East-street, opposite Billy O'Rourke's Cottage of Content Hotel. The next morning his "colonial "experience "started in earnest as his passage was "booked" for Drayton, the capital of the Downs, per medium of the bullock-dray, owned by one " Billy" Marks, whose father, in those days, kept the Three-Mile Creek Hotel. The dray was loaded from the stores of Messrs. Walter Gray and Co. (afterwards known for years as Messrs. J. and G. Harris's (stores), in l Bremer-street, on the site now occupied by the Girl's Central State school. According to "Wattie" Gray's scales, Mr, Ball's weight was (9.12) rather good, and he, for a "new chum youngster." Prior to leaving "Limestone," he purchased a blanket and other necessary articles "required for the bush journey," so that a couple of days after his arrival from dear old England he had started for the Darling Downs, now considered to be ''the garden of Queensland" then an extensive sheep run. The first day's journey ended by camping at the Three-Mile Creek; the second at the Seven-Mile Creek; Rosewood was reached on the third, and there a "damper" was made, bread not being procurable.
Meat was cooked on the road, and "billy" tea was made. Mr. Ball states that he thoroughly relished everything, as travelling in the open air gave him a keen appetite. They passed Grandchester on the fourth day, and on the fifth the Little Liverpool Range was negotiated, during which he received a very fair idea as to what is facetiously termed "bullock-drivers' language," which was of a most expressive description. On arrival at Laidley, surveyors were found to be at work in pegging out what is now known as the "old township." Gatton was reached on the sixth day, and it took the "bullockies the whole day to cross the Lockyer Creak, which was in flood, a string of (28) oxen having been used in getting the vehicles from bank to bank, in which efforts Mr. Ball states that he was a most interested spectator, as, on the dray, were his three boxes of clothes, &c. Owing to the terrible state of the roads, "Billy" Marks was compelled to camp for two days, but Mr. Ball, in exploring the mysteries (to him) of the bush, was badly stung by a "stinging tree." The pain was most excruciating, said Mr. Ball, and he never wants to experience the like again. Helidon was "discovered" on the ninth day out; on the 10th, Murphy's Creek was crossed, and the foot of the Main Range reached, the whole of the 11th day being spent in climbing the great dividing range, "the wild grandeur of which," remarked Mr. Ball, "completely astonished me. I had never previously seen any sight so gloriously magnificent." Toll having been paid at the old turn-pike gate, they subsequently reached the summit of the Main Range, and, on the 12th. day out, they passed through "The Swamp"--now the dignified Toowoomba, the capital city of the Downs-but then only a few slab huts and an old wooden hotel. Finally, they arrived at Drayton, the "hub," of the Darling Downs 55 years ago.
Mr. Ball stayed at a boarding-house on the night of his arrival there. The late Mr. William Horton, father of Mr. T.P. Horton (Crown lands Ranger in the Wide Bay district, but well known in this city), kept the leading hotel--"The Bull's Head'"--in Drayton. At a stationer's shop, kept by the late Mr. Wm. Handcock (brother of the late Mr. Geo. Thorn, sen.), Mr. Ball paid 6d for a bottle of ink, which would cost only a penny now. A single needle cost him 3d. Drayton terminated " Billy" Marks's journey, and leaving his boxes at a store, Mr. Ball loaded with his "bluey," billy-can, a damper, tea and sugar, started off on "the wallaby" for Talgai, on the tramp thither camping a night at Cambooya, arriving at his destination some 15 days after he had left Ipswich. He was told off to the single men's quarters, consisting of slab huts, and was served with a tin plate, knife and fork, and a pannikin. The unrefined sugar --- -"cockroach" sugar, as it was termed---- was of the same hue as molasses. Mr. Ball shared his quarters with three other companions, and this "partnership" proved a lucky one, for one of his mates---Gunn by name, an old identity -- was an inveterate fisherman, as well as being a first-rate cook. His catchings comprised fine Condamine cod, so that Mr. Ball's hut was always well supplied with fresh fish. The old man was a keen Scotchman, said Mr. Ball. Mr. Ball's principal duties were to attend to the station garden, a position he fulfilled to perfection, but sometimes he was called upon to look after sheep. His rations consisted of fresh beef once a week and "corned" beef on other days. In those days potatoes were an unknown luxury, but there was served out "'potato flour," imported in tins from Chili, and when moistened it resembled mashed potatoes. The "old camp oven" was the best friend the pioneers of 55 years ago had. "When once fairly established on the station," said Mr. Ball, "I quickly found my English clothes far too heavy, so I gladly purchased a couple of Crimean shirts and two pairs of Moleskin trousers. I was now an Australian. Washing day (we did our own washing and made our own beds) occurred once a week, and on those days the banks of the Condamine presented quite an animated scene. In about a month's time my three boxes arrived from Drayton, per horse team. I exhibited my 'home' collection of clothes, and much fun was created at their appearance. I sold a top-hat ('bell topper') and a dress suit for (£4), our Scotch cook (Gunn) having been the purchaser. They all fitted him as if specially made, and he looked a "regular swell." He fancied himself too! Everything was 'knocked down to the highest bidder, even to the boxes, and I garnered in (£10) on the transaction." Mr. Ball also related an incident in which one of the shepherds figured. Hearing of the probable arrival of an immigrant vessel, the shepherd referred to, after obtaining permission and drawing his cheque, at once set off on horseback, with a spare horse, for Brisbane in search of a wife, whom he was to select from the new-chum girls on their arrival in the metropolis. The ship came, the immigrants were landed and taken to the depot, where "Mr. Shepherd" was waiting to "pick" his choice, which panned out all right. The marriage eventuated, and a start was made for Talgai, the newly-made wife having been "packed" on horseback, and on her arrival at the station, "via Cunningham's Gap, she vowed she would "' never spend her honeymoon again like that." Mr. Ball states that while at Talgai station, he met Mr. Joseph Sparkes, subsequently the veteran tailor of Ipswich, for the first time. "On the declaration of Separation Day, on the 10th of December, 1859, we, said Mr. Ball decided to have a 'spree,' and dispatched the cook to the store for the necessary raisins, currants, and flour for a big pudding in honour of the occasion. The raisins were 'lively'---- they ran about, notwithstanding which the pudding was proclaimed a huge success!"
The end of January, 1860, completed Mr. Bail's six months' engagement, and he then decided to try his luck in Melbourne. He drew his cheque, and after purchasing a suitable outfit, he tried several stations to get a "billet" driving cattle to Victoria. He was either too late or too early. Anyway, he came on to Toowoomba, where, on tendering a cheque for £1 for tea, sugar, and flour, the change was given in "I.O.U.'s" of 2s 6d each, payable on demand at a certain storekeeper at Toowoomba, so that Mr. Ball was compelled to negotiate them there. The nearest bank was at Ipswich, where, after five days tramp-from Toowoomba, he duly arrived, and cashed his cheque at the Bank of Australasia, then situated in Brisbane-street, on the site of the ironmongery department of Messrs. Cribb and Foote. He walked to Brisbane, intending to take a passage by steamer to Melbourne. On arrival at the metropolis, Mr. Ball stopped at boarding-house, where he tasted bread and butter, and slept in a bed, for the first time for over six months. He became very feverish, and on visiting Dr. Ward, of Nundah, Mr. Ball was pronounced to be suffering from malarial fever. He was three months under the care of Dr. Ward (for whom he afterwards worked on Dr. Ward's station for six months), who advised him to return to Ipswich, which advice he accepted, and when strong enough, he did so, and has been here ever since. That completed Mr. Ball's roaming adventures.
Subsequent to Mr. Ball's return to Ipswich, in the early part of 1861, he was engaged as gardener by the late Mr. Thomas Bell (father of the late Sir Joshua Peter Bell, who then resided with his son-in-law (the late Hon. Thomas de Lacy Moffatt ). Their place of residence was on Limestone Hill, styled "Mary Villa," and now known as "Cintra." Mr. Ball quickly turned the rocky surroundings into a beautiful garden, in which efforts he was assisted by Messrs. Thomas Lavercombe and John Hogan, both residents of Newtown at the present time. At a later period, prior to the marriage of Mr. (then) Joshua Peter Bell to Miss Dorsey (eldest daughter of the late Dr. Wm. McTaggart Dorsey, and sister of Mr. Alexander Dorsey, recently Crown Land Agent at Ipswich), the Hon. T. de Lacy Moffatt removed to Waterstown (Mr. Thomas Bell accompanying them), and "Mary Villa" was prepared, under Mr. Ball's supervision, for Mr. and Mrs. Joshua Peter Bell's residence after theilr marriage, for which ceremony Mr. Ball supplied the flowers, also decorating the residence of Dr. and Mrs. Dorsey, which was situated in Thorn-street, on the same side, but to the north of Dr. Dunlop's surgery. 'It was a very grand wedding," said Mr. Ball, "the carriage horses having been ridden by postillions (the late Messrs. Harry Ploetz and John Gordon, both fine horsemen) in full hunting costume." Mr. Ball remained subsequently in the employ of Sir Joshua Peter Bell, until the latter removed to Jondaryan. The incident during Mr. Ball's engagement at "Mary Villa" occurred, of which he still retains a distinct recollection. He had occasion to visit Waterstown, intending to make the trip on horseback, by way of North Ipswich. On arrival at the site of Mr. Robert Jeffrey's pontoon bridge at the foot of Ellenborough-street, the punt was found to be "out of action" owing to the flooded state of the river. Mr. Ball then rode down the southern bank of the stream. and, when opposite the residence of Mr. T. de (Lacey) Moffatt, he "cooeed" from the southern shore. His presence was observed, and a young woman came forward, and, obtaining a boat near by, she rowed across the swollen river in splendid style. Mr. Ball, having tied his horse where he attended to his business required of him, and when this was terminated the same lady rowed him back to the southern side. "This lady," remarked Mr. Ball, "subsequently married an esteemed resident of this city, and was the mother of a prominent local politician."
About this period Mr. Ball was married to Miss Parkinson, a sister of the late Mr. Hugh Parkinson, of the "Queensland Times." Their first residence was near Rosehill. Subsequent to leaving the employ of Sir Joshua Peter Bell, Mr. Ball was engaged at the ironmongery stores of Messrs. T. H. Jones and Co., in Bell-street. The brothers, the late Messrs. James and David McIntosh (so well known in connection with the early volunteer movement and old-time rifle-shooting), were engaged at Messrs. T. H. Jones and Co.'s, Mr. James McIntosh having been the manager. Mr. Ball remembers the removal of the post-office from Bell-street to its present site in Brisbane-street, on the 26th of August, 1862. Mr. Ball remained at Messrs T. H. Jones and Co's for a couple of years, when he received an appointment in the Post-Office, under the supervision of the late Mr. Richard Gill. This was half-a-century ago, about which period he removed to the site of his present residence in Roderick-street. In the early sixties, he was a member of the first volunteer band formed in Ipswich under the leadership of the late Mr. F. Cramer, who was a fine clarionette player. Mr. Ball's instrument was the cornet. The artillery branch of volunteers was formed afterwards, said Mr. Ball. He remained in the post-office service for something like 25 years, without having had, during that quarter-of-a-century, a single day a holiday, and he left the service after a most honourable career. For the last 10 years of his post-office work he was entirely in charge of the night-work. "We were always," said Mr. Ball, "kept up to our eyes in work. Besides myself, there were Messrs. Richard Gill, John Evan, and S. Lewis. The English mail arrived only once a month, but I have seen heaps of newspapers, 4ft. in height on the floor, and the busiest periods we experienced were during the 'rush' of immigrants to Ipswich at the time of the early railway construction works from Ipswich westward. Mails were despatched to all the stations between Ipswich and Nanango from Ipswich to Charleville, and daily from here to Brisbane. The post-office work increased in volume every year," said Mr. Ball. "and I felt that I required a 'spell,' so I retired on a pension some 27 years past, since which time I have been in business continuously, in Nicholas-street."
When Mr. Ball first took up his residence in Roderick-street, his was the only house in that vicinity, and there were comparatively few dwellings between it and the cemetery. The place now styled "Lyndhurst," in South-street, was the principal club-house (known then far and wide as the North Australian Club---- a very busy centre 50 odd years ago), and the hill (now well adorned with substantial residences) between the Club-house and Mr. Ball's home was the principal cricket ground for the boys of the old East Ipswich Primary school (better known in those days as "Scott's school"). Mr. Ball re-members the visit to that Club of the late Duke of Edinburgh, in February of 1868; also the appearance at the same institution, later on, of the late Col. Sam. Blackall, the second Governor of Queensland, one of the most popular Governors in this State, especially with the Ipswich folk, as testified to by the Blackall Monument in Brisbane and Nicholas Streets. Mr. Ball also recollects the old merry racing days, under the auspices of the North Australian Jockey Club. He also recalled to mind, witnessing willing tribal fights between blacks, in the vicinity of Denmark Hill. In addition to his post-office duties, Mr. Ball interested himself in other concerns helping to advance the progress of Ipswich and West Moreton. He was one of the originators of the movement, as far back as (48) years, for the formation of the Ipswich Agricultural and Horticultural Society. This society was established in March of 1866, as the result of a petition to the then Mayor of Ipswich (Ald. John Murphy), signed by Messrs. James McIntosh, J.C. Foote, Benjamin Cribb, William Hendren, Fred. C. Daveney, J.G. Foxton, Henry Bathos, Henry M. Cockburn, Hughes and Cameron, H.C. Williams, Chas. L. de Fattorini, and Henry Challinor. The late Mr. Henry Kilner, too, evinced great interest in its advancement. The first show was not held, owing to much depression, until the 17th of December, 1868, when one part was held in the School of Arts, and the other in East-street, next to Mr. W. Milsom's residence. Ploughing matches were also held under the same auspices 46 years ago, remarked Mr. Ball. He was likewise a member of the first committee appointed by the Education Department in connection with the East Ipswich Primary School (under the regime of the late Mr. John Scott). He was chairman. Boys and girls were taught 40 odd years under the one roof, and, said Mr. Ball, "only the other day, Miss Roulston, who had charge of the girls' section, called in to see me, and she seemed to be in robust health." Mr. Ball was also appointed on the committee of the Central Girls' State School (Mrs. L. A. Bryant being the head mistress at the time), and he occupied the position on those respective committees for many years. He has also filled the position of judge in the agricultural and horticultural class at all the principal shows of Ipswich and West Moreton--Ipswich, Gatton, Marburg, Rosewood, &c., as well as at Brisbane. "Yes," replied Mr. Ball, " I well remember, the sensation caused in Ipswich, 49 years ago, on the receipt of the news of the 'sticking-up' of Cobb and Co.'s mail coach, near Oxley, by a so-called bushranger, but the excitement soon subsided when it was learned that there was no blood spilled. Nor do I forget," concluded Mr. Ball, "the sensation caused in the surroundings of Club-House Hill, during the early seven-ties, by the continuous night robberies by an American negro, whose 'plant,' was discovered in the cellar of the old Club-House." Mr. Ball is still in the enjoyment of fair health, and he looks as if his 55 years' residence under our sunny skies has not robbed him of much vigour.