Some five years ago, I blogged the question “Whatever happened to duelling?”
to which Paul Bailey replied that the first libel laws were passed to stop people from settling disputes with duels. More recently, American author Amor Towles wrote in his wonderfully perceptive book “A Gentleman in Moscow”: When duelling was first discovered by the Russian officer corps in the early 1700s, they took to it with such enthusiasm that the Tsar had to forbid the practice for fear that there would soon be no one left to lead his troops.
I had always been under the impression that duelling was a historically recent contest between two people to settle a point of honour, and, indeed, my computer’s dictionary backed me up with: the sense of duelling as a contest to decide a point of honour dates from the early 17th century.
However, last week I participated in a seminar in which one of the speakers, Ray Kerkhove, mentioned that Australia’s Aboriginal people also conducted individual and collective duels under strict rules and fought with their traditional weapons such as spears, boomerangs or fighting sticks. Presumably, the history of their duels dates back much further than the European’s 17th century.
Maybe our sense of honour has always been an inherent part of our human nature, and more importantly, its defence seems vital to our survival as individuals, communities, or nations.
Part of the centenary commemoration of the First World War, this book brings together photographs and biographical information of those listed on Redland’s cenotaphs.
The project was a collaborative effort from several individuals including myself, and organisations, including the North Stradbroke Island History Museum. As well as a limited hard copy run of the book, the Cleveland Library has made a PDF copy freely available on the Cleveland Library’s website at:
Tomas Petrie arrived in the penal colony at Moreton Bay with his parents in 1837 when he was just 6 years old. His father, Andrew Petrie, was to become Clerk of Works in the colony. Thomas was educated by a convict clerk and was allowed to mix freely with Aboriginal children. He learnt to speak the local language Turrbal and was encouraged to share in all Aboriginal activities. He was witness to convicts labouring in chains on the government farms along the river and saw numerous floggings of convicts on Queen Street. At 14 he participated in a walkabout to a feast in the Bunya Mountains. He was accepted by the Aborigines and was often used as a messenger and invited on exploration expeditions. He also learned about surveying, bushcraft and the local geography while travelling with his father, Andrew Petrie.
After his marriage to Elizabeth Campbell in 1858, Tom bought property in the North Pine district, which he called Murrumba (Good Place) and where he was helped by friendly Aborigines to clear his land and construct his first buildings. He continued to explore widely, his main aim being the search for new timber areas and places for further settlement along the coast.
When the Government opened Queensland’s first Aboriginal reserve on Bribie Island in 1877, Petrie became its chief adviser and overseer. The experiment was terminated next year largely because Petrie’s report on Aboriginal attitudes and activities was not encouraging
Petrie died at Murrumba in 1910, and the name of the North Pine district was changed to Petrie in his honour. There is also a new suburb in the area named Murrumba Downs.