KATIE JACKSON

Floods near Ipswich, 1893
Floods at Mt Crosby,1893 (SLQNeg 161473) 

Drowned In The Flood Of February, 1893
At Blackwall, Near Ipswich, Aged 19 Years

Have you heard of Katie Jackson,
Our Queensland girl so brave,
And how for three poor children
She sought in vain to save –
Her sisters and her brother –
Her own life Katie gave?

The mother and the children
Were all alone that day
When the flood beset their dwelling.
The father wished to stay,
But he had to drive his engine,
And was forced to go away.

"Our Katie", said the mother
"Can swim so well and row,
As with a man, we know,"
And once the boat went safely,
And twice they prayed might go.

On dry land stood the mother
by her good Katie's aid
And watched the children coming.
Oh, who would be afraid
To trust them to their Katie –
Strong-armed, stout-hearted maid?

And swift and safe she brought them,
But midway struck a tree;
Caught in those eddying waters,
No help nor hope could be;
But Katie, noble sister,
With fond arms charged the three

Alas for Katie Jackson,
And those small children dear;
Alas for the poor mother,
Who watched them disappear;
And for the far-off father
Who fain had been a-near;

Send, girls of her own Queensland,
Your token to her grave –
In stainless stone the Symbol
Of Him who died to save;
And honour Katie Jackson –
The dutiful, the brave.


                   Mary Hannay Foott (18 February, 1893)

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AT LYTTON, QUEENSLAND
 

JANUARY, 1902

Fort Lytton, Queensland 
Soldiers at Fort Lytton, ca 1900 SLQ Neg 124707 

Past the Fort on the fairway, where river and sea are met,
Like new stars risen on the hillside, the Bushmen's fires are set,

When the flames die down and to ashes wither the embers red,
And the tents are struck to silver as the moon climbs overhead,

In his dream the river whispers, night-long, of his ranges far,
And his creeks in the open forests, where the kindly cattle are.

In his dream the ocean murmurs, night-long, how he bears away
The men from the camp on the hillside – some for ever and aye.

Up to the camp on the hillside, whisper and murmur creep;
In all the tents of the hillside, the Bushmen hear in their sleep.

In dream, at the word of the river, they ride where the bush blows sweet,
They stoop 'neath the moth-wing roof of bark, where the old bush-comrades meet,

In dream, at the word of the ocean, they follow the Dutchmen's spoor,
Till the Flag of the Nation flies in peace, over Briton and Boer.

                                                                        Mary Hannay Foott (1902)
 

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WHERE THE PELICAN BUILDS

[The unexplored parts of Australia are sometimes spoken of by the bushmen of Western Queensland as the home of the pelican, a bird whose nesting place, so far as the writer knows, is seldom, if ever found.]

The horses were ready, the rails were down,
But the riders lingered still –
One had a parting word to say,
And one had his pipe to fill.
Then they mounted, one with a granted prayer,
And one with a grief unguessed.
"We are going," they said, as they rode away –
"Where the pelican builds her nest!"

They had told us of pastures wide and green,
To be sought past the sunset's glow;
Of rifts in the ranges by opal lit;
And gold 'neath the river's flow.
And thirst and hunger were banished words
When they spoke of that unknown West;
No drought they dreaded, no flood they feared,
Where the pelican builds her nest!

The creek at the ford was but fetlock deep
When we watched them crossing there;
The rains have replenished it thrice since then,
And thrice has the rock lain bare.
But the waters of Hope have flowed and fled,
And never from blue hill's breast
Come back – by the sun and the sands devoured –
Where the pelican builds her nest!

                          Mary Hannay Foott  (5th March, 1881) 
 

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Up North*

Into Thy hands let me fall, O Lord –
Not into the hands of men –

And she thinned the ranks of the savage horde
Till they shrunk to the mangrove fen.

In a rudderless boat, with scanty storeMary Watson (SLQ Neg 67193)
Of food for the fated three –
With her babe and her stricken servitor
She fled to the open sea.

Oh, days of dolor and nights of drouth,
While she watched for a sail in vain,
Or the tawny tinge of a river mouth,
Or the rush of the tropic rain.

The valiant woman! Her feeble oar
Sufficed, and her fervent prayer
Was heard, though she reached but a barren shore,
And died with her darling there.

For the demons of murder and foul disgrace
On her hearthstone dared not light;
But the Angel of Womanhood held the place,
And its site is a holy site.

                       Mary Hannay Foott (1885)

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*The incident referred to in the above poem took place a few years ago in one of the small islands off the north coast of Queensland. Mrs. Watson, wife of a bêche de mer fisher, was left, in her husband's absence, with her infant child and two Chinese servants on the island. The homestead was attached by wild blacks from the mainland, one of the servants killed, and the other wounded. Mrs Watson defended her home so effectually with her revolver that the assailants withdrew. Fearing their return she placed some little provision in an iron tank, which had been cut down so that it served as a boat, and embarking in this frail vessel, with her child and the wounded man, she strove to make her way to some place of refuge. The tank was found some time afterwards on the shore of an uninhabited and waterless island, where the remains of the ill-fated voyage were also discovered. Mrs. Watson kept a diary almost up to the last.