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Frederick Augustus (Fred) Garling (1833–1910)

Frederick Garling was born on June 29, 1833 and was educated at St James's Grammar School in Phillip-street Sydney, when the Rev Thomas Bodenham was head master, "Fred" applied himself so diligently to the instruction of his teachers that, while yet of schoolboy age, he thought himself capable of earning a living and looked round for employment which he obtained with the firm of Harold Selwyn Smith carrying on business as a wine and spirit merchant at the northern end of George-stree, Sydney. He kept his situation for some time, but, as happens to youngsters of an active nature the lure of outdoor life appealed to him; so giving notice to his employer, he emerged from the shadows of high cedar writing desks, copying presses, and piled up account books, and gave himself a week to think out whether to continue his life on land or go to sea. He had often seen and had been fascinated by descriptive paintings by G. T. Gill, shown in the big plate glass window of Mader's shop in George-street, Sydney, about where Hugh Duff and Co. now have their offices. The pictures were so irresistibly characteristic of droving and work on cattle stations, that they appealed to him on the land side of his indecision, and he thought of going up country; but, so fond was he of the water and its attractions, that the wet side of his knotty questioning mind revealed itself clearly in favour of a life on the ocean wave. Searching for a billet, he got one as cabin boy to Captain Cooper in the bluff-nosed old wind-jammer, Royal Saxon, one of the fleet of ships known as Bobby Towns' "Rotten Row." She was bound for the Isle of Pines and China ports. Harsh treatment and scanty food resulted in the evil eye from what otherwise might have proved quite an angelic crew.

Experiences at Sea.
In these conditions, Cooper made young Garling a sort of bodyguard, arming him with a big horse pistol, to be kept under his pillow, which, already uncomfortable in a cramped bunk, did not act as on asprin. The old craft rolled her way over to Amon, the port of destination, discharged her cargo, and reloaded with Eastern merchandise and a batch of evil-smelling Chinamen for Sydney, a cargo redolent of perfume that Captain Cooper and his crew hoped would have been blown clear of smelling range by a typhoon in which the ship was caught in off the coast of Formosa. Young Garling's lively experience of his first sea voyage reminded him of the old adage, "Stand on the land and praise the sea." Back in Sydney Harbour, he was glad to hear the rattling of the anchor chain through the hawser pipe, mooring the Saxon in the stream off Towns' Wharf. Getting his discharge, but slow to be off with the old love before he was on with the new, "Fred." compromised, keeping a whiff of the briny ocean in his nostrils by working an oyster lease on Crook Haven River for a time. A chance of clerical work offering, he took a billet in H.M. Customs at Moreton Bay, leaving Sydney by the brig Jack. On arrival he found himself nearer to that part of Queensland where the remainder of his life was to be spent.

To Bowen with a Survey Party.
Susequently he joined Clarendon Stuart's survey party, engaged to lay out the township of Bowen, and reached there by the schooner Jeannie Dove on March 20, 1861. The landing at Port Denison was hazardous. In the vicinity of Gloucester Island the schooner was caught in a heavy squall, which threw her on her beam ends. Threatening to turn turtle, the situation was saved by old George Martin letting the mainsail halliards go by the run—being one of the survey party, and not on the ship's articles. The skipper (McDermott) used some lurid language, reflected by Martin telling him that Davy Jones's locker was not the objective of the Jeannie Dove's living freight. At the landing many blacks appeared, paddling round in canoes, and it was decided that a watch should be kept at nights. A young man named Watkins, a member of Stuart's party, voluntarily went on first, and was relieved by another named Craigie. In less than an hour the report of a gun was heard. Investigation found the watcher lying on some planking outside the camp; he had accidentally shot himself, and he died shortly afterwards. He was buried near by—the first white man to find a resting place at Port Denison. Stones were placed round the grave, and probably can be found there to-day. It had been arranged that Stuart's surveying party should be met by another organised by the Queensland Government, coming overland from Rockhampton, led by George Elphinstone Dalrymple, a first cousin of one of the Earls of Stair, the two combining in the work of laying out the town of Bowen of which it is not the purpose of the writer to give historic details, but to follow the career of "Old Fred," and his association with it from the time of his landing until the day of his death.

Dalrymple's "Red Breasts."
When in 1863 Dalrymple had resigned his Government position, and joined Scott Bros (from England) in an exploration for finding country for stock ''Fred" joined the company, known through their attire in boots and breeches and scarlet shirts as Dalrymple's 'Red Breasts." The expedition, though a large area was explored, did not prove a success, and the party returned to Bowen. Up to this time, 'Fred's" life in Northern Queensland had been one of strenuous adventure, not free from risk and danger, trouble with the blacks being not the least. On occasions when in control of squads of native police, coming in contact with the myalls, when they stood in the way of work to be done it was necessary to deal decisively with them. In 1863, he joined Fred. Walker's exploring expedition to the Gulf of Carpentaria, thence to Bowen, via Rockingham Bay, keeping a journal (which unfortunately was lost), and making various sketches en route. He had become much attached to his leader, whose health failing, he nursed and attended to night and day, ministering comfort up to that time when the long day closes. Then, when all was over, he made his coffin, and put a railing round the grave, erecting on it a wooden headboard, with an inscription, which he carved with a big pocket knife. Thus was Walker left to rest where he died on the Leichhardt River on November 19, 1866. Subsequently, "Old Fred." spent some years with Mr. James Gordon at Cluden, and afterwards for a long time was on the Lower Burdekin. Eventually he returned to Bowen, where, owing to his long association with the place and its residents, he was now popularly known as "The Father of Bowen" for he seemed so wrapped up in its growth. A report in the "North Queensland Herald'' mentions him when participating in the jubilee festivities held in Port Denison Park as one of the first to see Bowen after its discovery by Captain Sinclair, of the Santa Barbara; and Miss A. Heron, in her prize essay on the discovery of Port Denison, referred to him as one of the two survivors of the sea party that arrived with Clarendon Stuart in the Jeannie Dove. He died on March 5, 1910 and an obituary notice in the 'Bowen Independent and Proserpine Agriculturist" thus referred to his death; "There passed away at the Kennedy Hospital on Wednesday night last, Frederick Garling, aged 77. The deceased, who was born at Sydney, New South Wales arrived at Bowen on March 29, 1861 in the schooner Jeannie Dove, with Clarendon Stuart's survey party, met on April 12, by Geo. Elphinstone Dalrymple's party, which came from Rockhampton, the two combining and proceeding to survey the township of Bowen. Fred, was afterwards for some time with Mr. James Gordon, of Cluden, Townsville, and 10 years ago arrived on the Lower Burdekin, residing there for some time, eventually returning to Bowen. A kind, well-bred man, Fred Garling was much liked by all with whom he came into contact. The funeral took place on Thursday, many old friends attending to bid their last farewell to one of the pioneers of North Queensland, whose life was made up of many hardships, which must necessarily be suffered to smooth the path to civilisation and progress." "Old Fred." was the eldest son of the late Mr. F. Garling. H. M. Customs, Sydney. His grandfather was appointed by Governor Macquarie to be Deputy Judge Advocate of the settlement in New South Wales on December 11, 1815.

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Citation details

'Garling, Frederick Augustus (Fred) (1833–1910)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 24 April 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


20 June, 1833
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


5 March, 1910 (aged 76)
Bowen, Queensland, Australia

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