Monday, 21 June 2010

The Leichardt tree

This Leichardt tree has particular significance for Mackay, representing a very sad part of our history.  This is where the blackbirding ships brought the South Sea Islanders (from various Melanesian Islands).  They were then auctioned off to the local sugar cane plantation owners to work in the cane fields.  This happened over a period of about 30 years in the late 19th Century.  Some of the Islanders came voluntarily, but most were tricked into boarding the ships.  Most of them were repatriated to their homelands in the first years of the 20th Century - again, often against their will, as they had settled and married here by then.  Many managed to return over the next few years, but some have had lost relatives and family histories which have only been traced in the last twenty years or so.  Mackay has a large population of South Sea Islanders now, with a very proud history. 

This moving sculpture has been erected as a memorial to those early forced migrations.
Most of the Islanders could not read or write so they had to use thumb prints and these, along with the names they were given, are represented on one face of theboxes.
On the opposing face are the names of the many plantations in the Mackay district - altogether a very inspirational sculpture.
If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you will see part of a blue painted building with 'chandlery' painted on it - if I had been psychic I would have taken a photo of it, as it is a very old Mackay building which has been vacant for several months and was burned down in a very spectacular fire yesterday afternoon.  Two other old deserted buildings alongside were burned also.  Our local paper today had many photos of the fire and the carnage, but the most interesting were of a wedding group who were having their phots taken in the park where the sculpture stands.  I'll bet nobody else has wedding photos with a building catching fire behind them!  The police suspect arson as there have been problems with vagrants squatting in the buildings - such a waste.
Our place has been bedlam today, the plumbers arrived at 7 am and filled the garden with all their junk - photos and story tomorrow, time for bed now, it has been a very long day.  Jock was totally stir crazy by this afternoon so I had to go on an extra long walk with him.


  1. A very interesting post Robin. The sculpture is very striking. The fire is a tragedy - I hope they catch up with the arsonist and that the plumbers are doing a good job.

  2. What a very poignant story Robin. How sad that there has been such needless destruction of the historic buildings. Bet the wedding photos brought a few laughs though. Hope Jock has settled down and the roof gets done quickly.

  3. Extremely interesting post Robin, I so enjoyed reading it. So sad to hear of yet another fire.
    I was surprised at your post title, as Ludwig Leichhardt explored much of the land in my area, and Taroom boasts a 'Leichhardt Tree'. There is still conjecture as to where he finally disappeared. Thanks for the interesting read. Hope Jock has settled a little by now and ready for another day.


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