Royal Road to Surveying

DAINTREE, Richard England/Australia b.1832 d.1878 (Free selector’s slab hut) (no. 12 from ‘Images of Queensland’ series) c.1870 Autotype on paper 13 x 21cm 10.1 x 16.5cm (comp.) Acc. 2009.212.012 Purchased 2009 with funds raised through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 30th Anniversary Appeal

Having prosecuted my studies as a surveyor, and availed myself of all the opportunities in the Engineers Department of advancing my profession I accordingly presented myself to the Surveyor-General and duly passed muster, whereupon I became a surveyor of Queensland. I had in mind of becoming a staff surveyor and geographer of the unexplored parts of Queensland. Experience had taught me that even as there is no royal road to learning, and as the eloquent seamen must enter at the bow point, in like manner I had no alternative but to travel all my stages and set footing as I travelled. I had sought re-employment in the civil service but as the Ministry in power had done their best to crush my chief, I found that as one of his loyal followers I must accept a position in the meantime as ‘inspector of public buildings’. I reoccupied my homestead at the Rocky Waterholes while waiting for the receipt of custom.

Perceiving at that time, after six months persevering effort, the apparent hopelessness of the endeavour to get a footing in the Survey Department, and to practice the profession for which I had sacrificed so much, I resolved putting the ship upon another tack, and to that end interviewed Mr. Randall Macdonnell, the head of the Education Department, with the view to offering myself as a candidate for employment in one of the State Schools. (The education of the rising race had been one of my proclivities which I set aside for the profession of surveying).

I obtained a cordial welcome from Mr Macdonnell, and forthwith entered upon a six weeks probation under Mr. McIntyre, at that time head master of the South Brisbane State School. At the termination of my training I arranged to go up for the required examination on the following day when I received a message from the Surveyor General that he wished to see me. I observed in the mud a three penny bit glittering in the sun and I welcomed it as a harbinger of luck.

The hand of destiny had been active. The Mackenzie Ministry in power, although an acknowledged Squatter Government, could not resist the spirit of progress and the popular clamor for the opening of public lands. The Act of 1868 gave extensive work to surveyors. I waited upon the Surveyor General (A.C. Gregory), who, although exceedingly urbane, shrugged his shoulders when I asked for work. He had the reputation of being conservative, which may account for his lack of encouragement to a new and untried surveyor; so that although some years afterwards, he proved, officially, one of my most steadfast friends. In the meantime he did not disturb my position of Inspector of public buildings.

However, destiny came to the rescue. My old friend and chief, Robert Austin, who was now ex-Engineer of Roads, obtained instructions from the Surveyor General to furnish a feature survey of the runs at the head of the Brisbane and Stanley Rivers.

Mr Austin undertook to bear a fair proportion of risk. He paid me a salary and found an outfit of horses, saddles, tents, wages of 1000 and paraphernalia. He likewise bore the expenditure of transit and met the loss which ensued from wet weather.

The survey parties accordingly rendezvoused at Cressbrook Station, on the Brisbane River where we formed a camp and then diverged to work.