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The changing face of the law across generations

  • 25 July 2016
In July 1863, 153 years ago, the David McIver, a migrant ship, arrived in Hervey Bay carrying 404 immigrants, there having been only one death at sea but also nine births on the 107-day voyage from Liverpool in England.

My great great grandmother Annie Doyle was on board with her five children, including my great grandfather Martin. Annie was an Irish widow. I suspect she was unable to stay on her farmland in Kilkenny once her husband died. And under the law as it was, there was no way she could have inherited any land. She had to look further afield.

Except for the US Civil War, I daresay she would have headed for somewhere like Boston where many indigent Irish had previously gone following the Great Famine seeking a new life.

It must have been a very bold decision to set out for the other side of the world alone, and with her five children in tow. No doubt, the availability of land grants here in the new colony of Queensland would have been incentive for going all that extra distance.

Hervey Bay is a very expansive but shallow bay sheltered from the Pacific Ocean by the majestic Fraser Island. On 6 July 1863, the crew of the David McIver spent the day searching for a channel until it was anchored in four fathoms of water.

Some of the crew got into a boat and made for the shore at Urangan. They came ashore and found two Aborigines. I presume they were males. Those two men then without protest accompanied the crew in the boat and showed the crew the way to Captain Jeffrey's Admiralty Survey Camp. The David McIver was only the second migrant ship ever to come into Hervey Bay and here were two Aborigines happy to extend a helping hand to complete strangers who must have looked very strange indeed.

One Aboriginal was then commissioned to send word to Maryborough 40 km away. That Aboriginal walked and ran all through the night to bring word of these new arrivals. A pilot was then dispatched. Within two days, a steamer named Queensland arrived, towed the David McIver to White Cliff on Fraser Island, and then received the disembarking passengers to transport them up the Mary River to the port of Maryborough where they arrived on 9 July 1863.

I know nothing more about those Aborigines who played their part in the safe arrival and settlement