Back Cairns in general

  • Early Tourism:

The 1876 Cleveland Bay Expedition on their second visit to Trinity Inlet rejoined the S.S. Porpoise. On Monday 21 August 1876, while steaming down the channel, they sighted “a brig and a small boat sailing southward” (Queenslander, 23 September 1878) which gives some indication that sea traffic along the northern coastline was not infrequent. 

​​Amazingly, the small boat turned out to be skippered by a Mr. Rauffmann from Cardwell, “bound for our new port, with his family [wife and two year old child] and all his household goods on board.”(Queenslander, 9 September 1876). Rauffmann’s actions give an intimation of the risks that some early colonists were prepared to take in order to carve a new and possibly more prosperous life. Their boat was leaking, and Captain Davis (of the Porpoise) took the family and their boat on board. The steamer went on to Cardwell, where somewhat incongruously, despite the alleged dangers of Aboriginal depredations along the coast, the correspondent managed to recommend the frontier port’s hostelry, owned by a Mr. Shawcroft, “as a desirable place for tourists in search of a quiet retreat from the cares of a busy life.” This may well have been the first promotion of Far North Queensland as a tourist destination! ​

  • The Chinese and the Wreck of the Ly-Ee-Moon

“Chinese junks in Trinity Inlet, c.1885.” 

The Chinese originally came from the Palmer River Goldfield after 1876, and were predominantly from the Kwantung Province in southern China. By 1891 the Chinese comprised 23% (or 1,593) of the districts 7,024 non-Indigenous population. They grew sugar-cane, corn, bananas, pineapples, citrus fruits, granadillas, paws-paws, and rice around Freshwater Valley and along the Barron River up Brinsmead’s Road and around Redlynch and Jungara. Between 1890 and 1910, ten to twenty junks plied the Barron River and Trinity Inlet, crewed by at least 50 Chinese. During the heavy floods of early May 1891, one of the Chinese banana junks, the Ly-Ee Moon founded at the mouth of the Barron River, then located just to the north of Ellie Point, and eight Chinese were drowned. Four years earlier in 1887, the Lit Sun Gung Temple had been opened in Sachs Street (Grafton St. from 1936) and to commemorate this and the tragic drowning's, every year thereafter, on 15 July of the Lunar calendar,  until 1941, the local Australian Chinese community held the ‘Bar-Lun Sui-Yee Wui’ or Barron River Memorial Festival, in remembrance of those who died and as an annual laying of ghosts and calming of waters. The ceremonies stretched out over two or three days and the utmost hospitality was shown to strangers.

This is an extract from Timothy Bottoms' CAIRNS, City of the South Pacific, A History 1770-1995 (Bunu Bunu Press 2016). see free historical documentaries about Cairns.

Cairns HistoryTimothy Bottoms

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