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A singular sensation must have been experienced by those who were among the pioneers in the Austral ian colonies. They had nothing to remind them of the staid and settled towns, they had left behind them in the old world, save the presence of' those who spoke the English tongue. Look where they would, nought met their gaze but a vast uncultivated land, which to be subdued by the implements of the agriculturist, and made to yield to produce requisite for the sustenance of life. The story of the pioneers and old colonists is a history of trials and discouragements sufficient to deter even the most courageous from attempting a task which seemed incapable of being accomplished, but in their case it was otherwise. The very arduousness of the undertaking only aroused a latent manhood that came to conquer, and would brook no defeat. The result was victory. The principal towns that are now the chief cities of the Southern hemisphere consisted of a small cluster of rude buildings, while the interior was known only to the black man. This was by no means a cheering prospect, but the indomitable spirit of the Anglo-Saxon that only calculates on success accompanied these first settlers. Bracing themselves up, they set to work and used whatever means were within their reach to surmount the obstacles which hindered progress, with the certainty that at no distant day railways would be constructed throughout the country, bridges would be built over every stream, and general prosperity would hum through every avenue of trade. They therefore pushed into the interior, and were content to rely upon the occasional visits of the carrier for the necessaries of life. In every instance they had to rest satisfied with the rudest structures and the rudest furniture. With the advance of years and improvements in worldly circumstances, they were enabled soon to surround themselves with the means of comfort. Many old colonists still living can narrate thrilling tales of their early experiences with such graphic force and truth, that you feel yourself an eye-witness of all they themselves saw and experienced.
This dim picture of' the past of Australia enables you to imagine very fairly what will be ultimately realised in the future. The population will continue to increase until every space of land will have its owner; the colonies will become federated in commercial interests, and possibly in government, and, perchance, attain an independent existence, or, if still allied to the mother-country, will be accorded in fact, as now in name, a freedom of action and responsibility which is the birthright of every people and land under the sun. Art, science, commerce, trade, and every industry will become fully developed. The reader must not accept this as a dream, for the events of the past and present that transpire in quick succession, and each succeeding one more marvellous than the former; make this portrayal not only possible but probable. The rising, generations must, however, see to it that they are the worthy successors of those who have by their toil and energy launched Australia on the ocean of prosperity. Contrary winds and terrific storms, or deceptive calms, may at times prevail, but by working with a will, and a true discretion, they have it in their power to hand down this bright and prosperous land with a happy peace-loving, God-fearing, and cultured people to, their sons and daughters.
A jealousy for the honour of Australia , in earnest wish to see her take a prominent place in the annals of nations, and a true effort to develop her resources, will bring this happy consummation about. The innate powers of' Australians are good, and the inexhaustible wealth of the country is great. These are the desiderata shall realise a prophecy, which we of the present day may not live to see fulfilled. The subject of this sketch is one of those early pioneers to whom allusion has been made, in our preparatory remarks, as having endured some of' the trials inseparable from the history of the colonies in an embryo state.
Thomas Childs was born November the 9th 1831, at the home of his grand-father, where his mother also first saw the light of day, and where forefathers for generations had been large woollen manufacturers at a place called Ireland in Kilve, Somersetshire. He went first to the parish school at Stowey, and afterwards was sent to a private school kept by the Rev, Win. Carey. On leaving school Mr. Childs went to work with his father, who was a farmer. In the year 1848 young Childs' father with his wife and family sailed from. England in the ship "Fortitude", and arrived at Moreton Island in January, 1849, after a voyage of five months, the pleasure of' which was broken by the death of his eldest sister. After having been quarantine for a few days on account of sickness on board, they came up to Brisbane in a schooner. In those primitive times there were no wharves, and the vessel was made fast by lashing ropes to some pine trees on the spot where Campbell 's wharf' now stands.
The business then transacted in what is now a growing city was very trifling, and was carried on at Kangaroo Point and South Brisbane. At that time North Brisbane contained only a few Government buildings and a gaol, which were built of stone by the convicts. What is now the colony of Queensland was, as is well-known by all Australians, the Northern District of New South Wales. Having decided on pursuing a farming occupation, Mr. Childs' father bought some land on the Brisbane River , and named it "Bulah". He accompanied his father to Beaudesert to purchase some cattle, with which they were obliged to swim across Kangaroo Point, and from that place they took them through the bush now known as the Valley, and named Fortitude Valley after the ship.
In the early days of their farming operations they were losers through the plundering propensities of large numbers of the aborigines, who carried off crop after crop of corn and potatoes.
Mr. Childs, on one occasion, went with Mr. D. McConnell in, a boat to take soundings, and then to land and survey, what is now Sandgate, but they were frustrated in their purpose by the blacks who were waiting on the beach ready to receive them with spears if they attempted to land; unable to discover the mouth of the river - it being now dark - they compelled to remain in the boat all night. In 1852, Mr. Childs accompanied by his brother, went to Bendigo , in Victoria , and after a short stay there, returned to Brisbane . In 1861 he visited Hambing Flats, where, not meeting with much success, he once more returned to pick up the shovel and the hoe. In those days, as no market could be found in Queensland for their produce, they had to send their hay to Sydney , and Mr Childs says that many a fine crop would be lost in a short time by either flood or drought. Their farm was situated on the Breakfast Creek road, where the Gas Company has erected their gas works.
In January, 1864, Mr. Childs married a Miss Clarke, who arrived from England at Sydney in the ship "Liberator", early in March, 1861, and settled down at Montpellier Hill where he at present lives, and carries on a cask and cases manufacturing business, which is well-known, and which has yield him an independent fortune, and in which he still continues to labour with the same constancy and diligence as when he was dependent upon his daily toil for the necessaries of life. He has one son, born in the year 1868, and who evinces the same elements of manly strengths that has been the distinctive characteristic of his father's life.
On Sunday, 24th November last, another of Brisbane 's pioneers, and one who might be said to be one of the landmarks of the Australian wine trade in Queensland, passed the great divide - viz., Mr. David Joseph Childs, of Toombul Vineyards, Nudgee, Brisbane. He was born at Stringstown, near Bridgewater, Somersetshire, England, on 25 th March (Lady Day), 1844, and arrived in Queensland (then known as Moreton Bay, NSW) in January, 1849, with his father and mother (Mr and Mrs. Thomas Childs), in the well-known sailing ship "Fortitude", from which Fortitude Valley takes its name.
Quoting from "The Australian Tropiculturist and Stockbreeder" of December, 1895, I am indebted to that journal for some portion of the early history of young Childs, who apparently from his earlier years was familiar with agricultural life, his father, Mr Thomas Childs, having been a yeoman of the old sturdy English country stock, farming his own state at Stringstown, and is said to have been attracted by a glowing description given of Queensland by Dr. J. Dunmore Lang.
After arrival, Mr. Childs, sen., settled down to farming pursuits to a farm known as "Beulah", where now stands the Brisbane Gas Works, young Childs meanwhile receiving his education from the various schools of the day - Scoot's James', the Rev. Mr. Mowbray's, and Mr Carvoser's. After gaining experience, Mr. D. J. Childs appears to have started what is known as the Toombul Vineyard at Nudgee, in 1866, an ideal place for a home, situated near the celebrated Nudgee water holes, and in the very centre of some of the best land around Brisbane, and which may be regarded as the centre of the pineapple industry; here the deceased gentlemen had resided up to the time of his death, and where his genial temperament and hospitality always welcomed a visitor, whether his mission was business or of a social nature.
The year 1866 is not looked upon to-day as having been an opportune or favourable time for starting such an enterprise, as it is generally regarded as a year of financial disaster; but young Childs once having made a start, did not falter, but stuck firmly to it, and realised the reward of his perseverance later on. Mr. Childs was fortunate, it is said, in his selection of the block of land, which appeared to have been well adapted for the uses of a vigneron, and he gave close attention to the selection of the best vines for his purpose; amongst his favourites it is said are some of the old well-known kinds, such at White Pineau, White Hermitage, Iona, Espar, and Isabe Ilas, but it does not appear that he depended solely on his own production, as his enterprise became enlarged, and he had to draw supplies of grapes elsewhere, notably from the Roma district, which is considered one of best of Queensland districts for the for the growth of vines. Meanwhile, Mr. Childs had acquired a name for his sweet and dry wines, including champagne, and his cellars at Nudgee always carried heavy stocks of all classes of the wines he produced, and he did his full share of pioneering the Queensland wine trade, as with a healthy ambition he submitted his wines to outside competition after he had exploited successfully the Brisbane exhibitions; he also won awards at Earl's Court and at the Franco-British Exhibition, so that Mr. D. J. Childs may be regarded as the father of the Australian wine trade in Queensland. He is also credited with the invention of what is known as a temperator-an ingenious contrivance for lowering the temperature of the must during its first fermentation in the vats, and it was spoken highly of by the experts of the day.
Coming to the social side of his life, in 1879 he married Miss Lucy J. Deagon, daughter of Mr. W. Deagon, who in those days was a notable of that little "Brisbane by the Sea", Sandgate, having been Mayor of Sandgate in the year that the railway was opened between there and Brisbane, and I note also that he built the Sandgate Hotel, and no doubt gave his name to the well-known suburb of Sandgate - namely, Deagon.
Mr. Childs was a member of the first Nundah Divisional Board, with which he was connected some seven years. In 1878 he became Justice of the Peace, and the same year he was elected Worshipful Master of the North Australian Lodge of Freemasons, and was elected a life member of the Parent Lodge in 1894, and in that phase of his life it will be sufficient to say "he was a Mason".
Mrs Childs survives her husband; all the children are living - two sons and seven daughters. His elder son, Mr. W. L. Childs, has made a study of the wine trade, and is carrying on the business under the old name of D. J. Childs. The younger son enlisted in the A.I.F. when only 18 years of age, and was passed, and has been reported wounded on two different occasions, and is now convalescent in England, and his family now hope that it may not be long before they may welcome him back as a "worthy son of a worthy father".
The funeral of the deceased gentleman took place on Monday, the 25 th November, the burial being at the Nundah Cemetery ; it was largely attended by all classes of the community.
Source: The Australian Brewers' Journal, December 20 th 1918, page 125-126.
TOOMBUL VINEYARDS: DAVID CHILDS
David Childs was a small 5 years old when the sailing ship Fortitude anchored in Moreton Bay in 1849. One of his earliest memories was of his father Thomas lowering him over the side to the sailors below on the ferry-boat Susan , which bought passengers up-river to Brisbane .
Young David and the other children of the Childs family were too full of wonder and adventure to know of the dismays their parents Thomas and Mary felt at the problems of the Fortitude immigrants. Thomas and Mary Childs were far too independent and industrious to be beaten, and despite lack of government assistance stuck out for themselves. Determined to obtained a better life than they had experienced in their native county of Somersetshire , they were not long in purchasing land on the Brisbane River near New Farm, and establish what was to become a prosperous farm and orchard, which they named 'Beulah'.
The children received the best possible education the colony could provide; David recorded that he attended several private schools in Brisbane . After leaving school he was employed for two years on the Ridlers' properties along the Burnett River, and from there branched out to droving flocks of sheep to the Suttor River district, before returning to Brisbane.
David saved his earnings, which he invested in establishing a vineyard on forty-three acres of land at Nudgee, purchased from the original owner, J. Sands. The land was considered excellent for grape growing and, inspired by the success of the vineyards established earlier by Carl Gerler at Eagle Farm, he experimented with crops. He became the first vigneron in Queensland to produce champagne and a range of sparkling wines, ensuring his Toombul Vineyards a steady and reliable market for years ahead. He married Lucy Jane Deagon, whose father was an early councillor of Sandgate. The suburb of Deagon bears witness to his efforts.
Toombul Vineyards stood close to the Nudgee Waterholes, where members of many native tribes met to feast and debate years before the arrival of the European settlers. David Childs is known to have had cordial relationships with the Aboriginal tribesmen and collected an assortment of native weapons which he displayed at the homestead; but he always respected their culture and wrote in 1913 to an enquirer regarding the Nudgee Waterholes bora ring:
In reply to yours re 'Bora' ring, I'm sorry that I am unable to give you many facts about it. The ring is about 80ft in diameter, the path which was dug out about 9 inches deep leads in a north-west direction for about 50 yards then disappears in cultivated land. The blacks were very reticent in regard to the matter. I well remember in my young days when all the young men from 15 to 20 years were taken away from their parents to be made men. I do not believe anyone would be allowed to come anywhere near; the women would not go within cooee of the ring.
Since David lived near the waterholes from the mid-1860s (about forty-nine years before he wrote that letter), one feels he knew far more of the Aboriginal culture than he was prepared to disclose; he maintained the confidence of his many native friends of bygone days.
For over a hundred years Childs Toombul Vineyards was renowned for the quality of its wines and champagnes and, even after David's death in 1918, the vineyards continued to be run by his children. It was the meeting place for friends from neighbouring properties with many social events occurring around the lovely colonial homestead. But time passes, and the grounds that once held miles of trellised grape vines have become the wide, manicured fairways of the Nudgee Golf Club, and thousands of motor vehicles speed over the freeway that spans the site of the Childs homestead en route to the Gateway Bridge . The Childs family rests in the historic cemetery; David's father Thomas died in 1881, and his wife Mary three years earlier. Thomas is said to have written his own epitaph in the form of a religious verse, the first letter of each line spelling his full name. Joe Egan and Margaret Outridge.
Source: Moran, John. In the Grip of the Grape - Establishing Queensland 's Wine Industry (1993), page 55-58 and 150 Years Nundah Families 1838-1988, Nundah Historic Cemetery Preservation Association Inc, page 35.