& other significant survey treasures nearby.

Readers of the Goondiwindi Pocket Book would know that we usually promote Goondiwindi on our cover. But the Goondiwindi Pocket Book reaches all the way to Moonie in the North, and strangely North Star in the South, and the two "Y"s of Yelarbon and Yetman in the East; and … all the way West to Nindigully, Thallon and Mungindi.

So this year's front cover feature is about the historical surveying post which was erected in 1881 by John Cameron at Mungindi while drawing the 484 miles boundary between Queensland and New South Wales.

Most people think of Cameron's Corner when thinking about this adventurer, John. The corner of the state borders of New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland (see our Queensland map in this Pocket Book) was but one part for John Cameron and George Watson when Her Majesty's Governors of the NSW Colony and the Queensland Colony wanted the border marked on the actual ground for this portion along the 29th line of longitude. This difficult-to-mark line meets the Barwon River. Then the river is an easy border for other surveyors in a series of comfortable boat sojourns along the Barwon River, the Macintyre River, the Dumaresq River, and the Severn River, until having to go overland again at Mingoola right through to Tweed Heads … ah  … ehh … and … Coolangatta.

But, to see real history, you need not take a 4WD all the way out to Cameron's Corner, where the old surveying post weathered away and has been replaced with a replica. Instead go out just to Mungindi in a reasonably ordinary vehicle. The road to One Ton Post is clearly marked just on the Queensland side of the border. Drive about 6 km, and then about 1 km over a gravel road to the car park for "The Post"; the original post installed by John Cameron himself. See Map 1 at A8, and Map 7 at A1.

The 29th Parallel Survey

Cameron & Watson went out to Cunnamulla, and then down to Barringun, Pocket Book Qld Map at H 21.

(Today, Barringun, a locality with virtually no village, is also the 'capital' of the self-proclaimed Murrawarri Republic. Most notable is a rest stop about 50 metres north of the border on the Mitchell Highway.)

Image 1. The Zero Obelisk at Barringun

On 15th September 1879, they commenced the work here at Barringun where they erected a Zero Obelisk. This was about in the middle of the 484 miles of the 29th parallel.

According to the information you will find at the car park for the One Ton Post at Mungindi, at Barringun: "The two surveyors divided the work. Watson was responsible for chainage and Cameron was responsible for the astronomical work required to undertake the geodetic survey.

"They began surveying the position of the border in a westerly direction to the intersection of the South Australian border — which is better known today as Cameron's Corner. This was a distance of 235 miles over very difficult country. Along the way they experienced many floods in both the Warrego and Paroo River systems followed by drought. In April 1880 a disagreement occurred between Cameron and Watson due to a lack of understanding and a communication breakdown. Watson decided to withdraw at the 100 mile post at the Paroo River. Cameron was determined to carry on the work without Watson. The survey took 12 months and 15 days from Barringun to Cameron Corner.

"The survey east from Barringun was much easier and Cameron reached this spot on the Barwon River near Mungindi in October 1881. This survey took 2 long years of survey work and illustrates a remarkable feat of surveying in the 19th Century and is a reminder of the extraordinarily difficult conditions under which many early surveyors worked."

Along the way, Cameron inserted in the ground pegs, or more often a post, every mile of the journey, all the way from Cameron's Corner to the Barwon River. The last peg is seen near the site of the One Ton Post. A survey like this has "The Last Mile Post" less than a mile from the river, as the distance is not exactly 484 miles, but is about 200 yards past this point to the river Barwon.

(For the youngies: A mile is about 1.6 kilometres, and a metre is 3.281 feet.)

The One Ton Post at Mungindi

Image 2. Gerry & Nevenka Clarke, owners of Pocket Books, visit the One Ton Post at Mungindi

Yes, with Brexit, we can use the English "Ton" being 2,240 pounds weight, rather than the French "Tonne" being 1,000 kilograms, at the little less weight of 2,200 pounds.

The wind up tourist speaker at the car park says: "The One Ton Post is believed to be the largest wooden survey peg in Australia and marks the Queensland and New South Wales border. The name originates to its weight and it is believed to have weighed 1 ton.

"The timber post is 2.7 metres high, roughly square in section and shaped into a pyramid at the top. Cameron carved his name on the side of the post — J Cameron G.S. — running upwards on one side and Lat 29 on the other. On the northern side of the post are the letters QL. On the southern side NSW.

Image 3. The One Ton Post on the Macintyre River; later named Barwon River at this point.

"In the 1990s, a local fencer, the late Bob Glass, built a roof over the 1 Ton Post to protect it. He also built a small hut nearby which is signposted as "The Fencers Hut".

The older references say this is the Macintyre River, but the river changes names, at a junction, to the Barwon River, about 20 km north of Mungindi.

A, B & C pins

This was the place to which Cameron had travelled as, here at Mungindi, two earlier surveyors had met to decide this point of the border, near the Barwon. They placed the A, B & C pins on river points. The B pin is only about a hundred metres from Cameron's One Ton Post. As you will read below, rent-tax was the real reason for this survey!

The tourists' talking post continues:

"In October 1865, some 16 years prior to the finish of Cameron's official 29th Parallel survey, two surveyors - Sir Augustus Charles Gregory, the Queensland Surveyor General; and William Albert Grieves the NSW District Surveyor, met by appointment at Mungindi on the Barwon River.

The purpose of this survey was to give both government and landholders close to the State border an indication of the extent of their leases and rent payable in each colony.

Together they used a 12" sextant, mercuries trays for astronomical observation and a 6" theodolite for reference lines, which took approximately 5-6 weeks.

They placed in the ground two foot-long steel pins within a triangle of trees marked 'A', 'B', 'C'. At the intersections of the Barwon,  Mooney, Naron, Bokara and Calgoa Rivers. The 'B' steel pin and tree was discovered outside Mungindi by Bill Kitson in 1983 and the remnants of the 'B' tree are located nearby."

John Brewer Cameron

Image 4. John B. Cameron, Fellow of the Royal Society, 1843-1897.

To do a job like surveying the remote parts of the empire, the empire needed very interesting, bright and able-bodied people. The Scots produced many of these, and for some interesting historical reasons.

Education in Scotland was normal for many children from about the 1400's. Schools had been established in the Middle Ages through Church Choir Schools and Grammar schools. Education was further encouraged by the Education Act in 1496 requiring sons of barons and sons of landholders to attend the Grammar schools, and encouraged them to attend the new universities. Girls also attended schools in very large numbers. Even William Wallace, played by Mel Gibson in the 1995 film Braveheart, could speak Latin and French, while he was leading a revolt.

The Scots educated their children centuries before the English made education universal. While the English might have built an Empire, the Scots, being educated in writing and numbers, ran the Empire as the Paymasters, the Architects, the Teachers … and the Surveyors. The Scots were fully justified in been 'canny' - careful with money, knew how to save and invest, and 'could do' almost anything. So, little wonder, John Cameron completed this task.

John Cameron was born in Kilmonivaig, Inverness, Scotland, on 31st Dec 1843. He was the eldest of eight children born to Ewen Cameron and Mary, nee McTavish. The family migrated to Australia when he was 10 years old, leaving Scotland on 8th June 1853 in the ship "Hurricane", and arriving at Port Philip (later Melbourne) on 13th September. He attended school at Richmond, now an inner suburb, and later at Healesville, now an outer district where he lived on the family farm called Glenwatts. When young, he was known for his intelligence, ambition and his athletic abilities, all of which assisted him through his, at times, very arduous career. His early work included a stint on the Victorian Gold Fields and the west coast of New Zealand.

His surveying positions included career positions in Fiji from 1869-72 where he owned a sugar plantation and surveyed the Town of Suva. On returning to Victoria, he worked with the Victorian Geodetic Survey 1872-75. While with the NSW Land Dept 1875-79, and the NSW Triangulation Survey 1879-83,  he was also a Member of the Royal Society of NSW and a founding member of the NSW Branch of the Geographical Society of Australasia. During this period, in 1881, he surveyed the 29th parallel, and much of the New England Tablelands. John's uncle was Ewen Hugh Cameron, later a member of the Victorian Parliament.

From 1889 till 1892 John took on the even more difficult task of being the Resident Magistrate & Survey & Map Maker in the Western District of British New Guinea. He also acted as the Private Secretary to the Administrator, William McGregor, a fellow "Scottish Highlander", accompanying him on his exploit to Mt Own Stanley. As well as Cameron's Corner in Australia named in his honour, John also has PNG's Mt Cameron named after him.

During this period, in 1890, he was honoured with being named a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of London.

From 1896-97 John gained elevation to being the Government Surveyor of British New Guinea. "British New Guinea" was really the South Eastern section of the island known usually as Papua, while German New Guinea was the North Eastern section of the island, and Dutch New Guinea was the Western section of the island. The NE section, was conquered by Queensland police at the start of the first world war, with quite some military action to take the outlying islands, and later both New Guinea and Papua came under the protection of Australia. Today, Papua & New Guinea is the PNG independent country, while the Western part of the island is a province of Indonesia.

John Brewer Cameron died from "New Guinea Fever", which he had contracted in 1883, on Friday 31 December 1897 in Brisbane at the Grand Hotel, after stopping there for the night while returning from New Guinea to go to Melbourne. He is buried at the Toowong Cemetery. (Died on his 55th birthday, even though his grave stone says aged 51.) Although Scottish by birth, he was known as a "native of Victoria", primarily because his extended family was still there at Healesville. John did not seem to have been married, and there seem to be no reports of any children.

George Chale Watson

George was also very well qualified and with religious foresight. The talking post at Mungindi says of George: "George Chale Watson was born on the 11 October 1833 in Hobart, Tasmania. Watson moved to Brisbane in 1862 and became a licenced surveyor in 1867. Watson worked as a surveyor in western Queensland and was eventually promoted to Commissioner of Crown Lands and Surveying. In 1877 Watson became the Queensland representative on an inter-colonial surveying party to establish the Queensland / NSW border with John Brewer Cameron. In September 1893 Watson faced redundancy due to a severe financial crisis across Queensland. In addition to surveying, Watson passionately believed in religious communal living and played a role in developing the Co-operative Land Settlement Act in 1893. Watson decided to pilot 237 people and establish a Utopian community called "The Woolloongabba Exemplars Commune" at Lake Weyba near Noosa which collapsed a couple of years later. Following the financial crisis Watson was re-employed by the Lands Department and became the Crown Lands Ranger in Barcaldine followed by the Lands Commissioner in Bundaberg in 1898 before retiring in 1902.

George Chale Watson died on 30th June 1905 age 72 and was buried in Bundaberg."

The trip

Image 5. Nevenka & Gerry Clarke, Owners of Pocket Book enjoy a short break during their trip

My wife, Nevenka, and I, were really a bit short on time, for this front cover story. On Sat 10th Nov 2018, we drive off at 7am from Peachester getting to Mungindi at about 1 pm. An hour at the One Ton Post, winding up the speaking machine & recording the messages on a mobile phone, then finding the B peg, and then finding the Last Post. All photographed. Into Mungindi for lunch. Back to Peachester by midnight. Our staff transposed the recordings and went through the over one hundred photographs to pick the few for the front cover. I researched a lot of history documents, and wrote this article. My thanks to the un-named speakers on the One Ton Post recordings.

Please read about Mungindi, this wonderful town, in our Tourism section of this Pocket Book.

Kind regards,

Gerry Clarke, B.PED
Nevenka Clarke, B.Maths.

Photos 1, 3 & 4 used in this cover story were sourced from an article presented to a meeting of the Qld. Royal Historical Society of Queensland on 23/10/1986 by William S. Kitson which included information & photos provided to him by Mr and Mrs N. Haughton of Kew, relatives of John Cameron.
(Interestingly some of the historical research was done by Mr A.E. Creelman of Bacchus Marsh, a 1986 resident of Bacchus Marsh which is where Pocket Books started.)
To see William S. Kitson's full article go to: https://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:205721