Friday, 14 September 2012

Mackay 1862

Earlier this year I was fascinated by 1942, a time 70 years ago when the world was at war.  Now it is the Victorian era that is stirring my fancy, maybe because of my new interest in Steampunk. According to Wikipedia, the Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901, although the Victorian Era style of clothing is seen to continue until about 1912.
In Steampunk it is British Victorian history and fashion that is paramount, with twists from US military costume (the civil war was going on of course), the wild west and world explorers etc.  Steampunk is not huge in Australia, but I thought I might go back and have a look at some Australian history and fashion during this time,and I thought it would be nice to start around 150 years ago, in 1862, which coincidentally is the year the town of Mackay, where I know live, was founded.
Mackay is on the coast of central Queensland, about midway between Rockhampton and Townsville and 820 km north of Brisbane. It now has a population of about 85,000. 

Map of Queensland in 1861 - neither Mackay or the 'Pioneer River is on it, but it  is the area just south of Port Dennison (now Bowen)
 I don't know much about the history of Mackay, having grown up in Melbourne, Victoria and studied history from a Victorian (Australian) viewpoint, and only having been here for ten years, but I am to find out more.  Let's start with the basics:
Mackay itself was named after the explorer John Mackay who led an expedition from Armidale, New South Wales, in search of northern grazing lands. In May 1860, after exploring inland regions, Mackay reached a huge blue river, which he named after himself.  In 1862 he and a partner took up a pastoral run along the river,  at a site now known  as Greenmount, which is about 14 km west of the town of Mackay.
Greenmount Homestead, Walkerston, Mackay
Greenmount Homestead

The venture did not last long, and in 1915  Albert (A. A.) Cook established the first Aberdeen Angus cattle stud at Greenmount, and built a homestead.  His son Thomas Albert Cook carried on the business. The house is still standing and is open to visitors.

Albert is pictured with his children Althea (on the bike), John and Tom  in the front yard of Greenmount  Homestead . source
Late in 1862 Governor Bowen and Commodore Burnett changed the name of the river to Pioneer,   the name of the boat they travelled in.  This was to avoid confusion with a Mackay River at Rockingham Bay (since renamed Tully River), but they then named the new town on the south bank of the river near the coast after Mackay. By 1870s Mackay had a booming sugar industry (as it does today) and the town was quite grand. By 1871 the population of Mackay was 729 and grew to 2075 by 1881 with the arrival of immigrants, mainly from Scotland, and of workers from the South Sea Islands.  
Cedars Sugar Plantation near Mackay c. 1880 source

By the 1870s there was also a mining industry in the area, mainly for copper - today's mining industry is mainly coal. 

The climate in Mackay is tropical - hot and humid in summer and warm in Winter. I wear a jumper perhaps a dozen times a year, and love air-conditioning in the summer.  Imagine wearing these fashions from 1860 in Summer here!

London fashions of 1860 source

I'm off to do more research......
Deb xxx 

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